Supreme Court Of Canada Decision Is End Of The Road For Sexual Harassment Class Action Rozon C. Les Courageuses

Published date23 November 2020
Subject MatterEmployment and HR, Litigation, Mediation & Arbitration, Discrimination, Disability & Sexual Harassment, Class Actions
Law FirmTorys LLP
AuthorMs Lisa Talbot, Sarah E. Whitmore and Morag McGreevey

Against the backdrop of an ongoing criminal trial, the Supreme Court of Canada has denied an application for leave to appeal from the Québec Court of Appeal's refusal to authorize a sexual harassment class action against Québec businessman and Just for Laughs founder Gilbert Rozon1. The Québec Court of Appeal denied authorization on the basis that there was a lack of commonality in the victims' complaints2. This decision will make it more difficult for victims of sexual assault and harassment to bring class actions against an alleged wrongdoer, in cases where the harassment took place outside an institutional setting or where the allegations relate to a pattern of conduct rather than a systemic policy or practice.

What you need to know

  • Québec Superior Court authorization. In 2017, a group of women who alleged that they were the victims of sexual assault and harassment by Rozon applied to the Québec Superior Court for authorization of a class action against Rozon They alleged that Rozon used his power and influence to assault and harass them. The action was brought under the name of Les Courageuses, a not-for-profit entity formed to represent Rozon's victims
    • The proposed class action was authorized in 2018 by the Québec Superior Court3. The Court held that the class members' claims raised identical, similar, or related issues, because the class members all alleged that Rozon had abused his influence to harass and assault them.
  • Overturned by the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal overturned the authorization, holding that there was insufficient commonality in the class members' claims. Unlike other sexual harassment class actions that have been certified in Canada, the claim against Rozon did not raise allegations of systemic wrongdoing through a common policy or practice. The only common element of the proposed class members' claims was Rozon's alleged pattern of abusing his power and influence to victimize the plaintiffs.
  • A new bar for sexual harassment class actions. The Court of Appeal's decision in Rozon raises the bar for victims of sexual assault and harassment to bring a class action to recover damages. Unless the harassment occurred in an institutional setting, or the claim raises allegations of systemic wrongdoing based on a common policy or practice, it may be difficult to establish sufficient commonality to satisfy the legal test for authorizing a class action.

The proposed class action against Gilbert Rozon

Les Courageuses alleged that...

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