In this latest career dilemma sent in to, Colleen Clarke calls for back-up when a team of lazy, disrespectful dudes makes work-life miserable for their female counterparts.

Dear Colleen,

I’ve worked for a small marketing agency (fewer than 10 employees) for about a year and a half, I find the work itself enjoyable and am making a great salary. Something I noticed upon starting was that from time to time, the owner/president and the 3 other male employees would go back into our board room to play video games while the 4 women continued to work. I also noticed that a woman who has worked here for years was/is doing the lion’s share of work in the company (not even taking into account the hours the guys were gaming). Over the past year, the gaming has progressed to a minimum of 2-3 hours per day during business hours and I’m really resenting the fact that myself and the other women are working like dogs while the guys are just coming in for a couple hours of gaming, a long lunch and a couple hours of work if the above mentioned woman gives them some assignments.

I broached the topic with the woman in management while we were out together for a meeting and found that she is just as frustrated as I am but is afraid that if she broaches the topic with the owner that she will lose her job, even though she has a high ranking position in the company. The owner is very sensitive to any criticism and feels that since we are well paid we should accept whatever rules or practices he creates, people have been fired for what he perceived as social slights in the past. I should also mention that he constantly uses very inappropriate language, has mentioned he won’t hire non-Caucasians along with racist jokes and bullies interns.

I am at the point where I’m looking for a new job and I’m looking for advice on how to report this company – do I have just cause to report this to Employment Standards Canada or any other employment regulatory body? If so, is there any way to do so anonymously?

Thank you,


Dear Mandy:

Your question posed a lot of legal issues so I checked with my legal source, Christine Thomlinson, Founding Partner of Rubin Thomlinson LLP one of the top employment law firms in Toronto. Christine advises:

“There is definitely a potential legal issue here – that being, a possible human rights liability for discrimination. If the gamers have the privilege of playing for hours a day, specifically because they are men, (and it sure looks like that’s the reason, since all the men – including the male owner – and none of the women, are involved) and the women are not afforded this same advantage, then that could be discrimination in employment based on sex. Sex discrimination is prohibited under human rights legislation in this country. The fact that the women also appear to be doing the lion’s share of the work may be further evidence of this discriminatory treatment. It adds to the problem if employees are also being subjected to offensive comments made by the owner, such as he won’t hire non-Caucasian employees and he makes racist jokes. Each one of these could also be examples of racial discrimination and/or harassment. All of this could entitle any of the female employees to make a complaint to the appropriate human rights tribunal or commission and seek a remedy.” Christine added in another email, “She has the opportunity to send a message that, just because you start your own company, doesn’t mean you can use it as a vehicle for illegal discrimination against women.”

All this being said Mandy, if you are planning to leave the company would you want to stir the pot of a kitchen you would no longer cook in? If you leave and do file a complaint you won’t have a reference from the owner, though one from the female manager you mentioned is perfectly acceptable.

We didn’t know which province you were writing from therefore were unable to suggest a specific regulatory board in which to file your complaint.

Best of luck!

Colleen Clarke, Career Specialist & Corporate Trainer

Author of Networking: How to Build Relationships That Count, How to Get a Job and Keep It

Co-author of The Power of Mentorship; The Mastermind Group