In April 2015, I wrote an article about the CBC workplace sexual harassment investigation report (login required) prepared by Janice Rubin from Rubin Thomlinson LLP, and the findings that could provide insights for all employers. As you may know, a criminal trial, R v Ghomeshi, took place this year to address allegations of sexual assault against several victims and concluded just last week. It was announced that the verdict in the Ghomeshi criminal trial will be handed down March 24, 2016.
Several journalists and experts have made statements to the effect that the aggressive handling of the criminal case would stall advances and reforms into the handling of sexual harassment in the workplace.
Stuart Rudner told AdvocateDaily.com that,
A workplace harassment complaint would be treated completely differently than the criminal prosecution now underway, which has complainants under tough questioning by Ghomeshi’s defence lawyer.
“One concern, however, is that people might be reluctant to come forward because they’re scared they’re going to be subjected to cross-examination and potentially embarrassed publicly,” he says.
“But they have to remember this is a criminal prosecution. This is not a workplace investigation, which would be completely different.”
Rudner says it’s important to remember that regardless of whether Ghomeshi is convicted or acquitted in the ongoing trial, it doesn’t change the fact that the issue has been “dealt with” in his workplace.
Focusing on the employment aspect of the case, it was clear that the result of the workplace investigation into the CBC’s handling of the Ghomeshi workplace sexual harassment complaints found that Ghomeshi was “deeply disrespectful to employees” and sexually harassed some colleagues. The report also contains allegations that managers who worked with Ghomeshi failed to investigate his behaviour or take steps to stop it.
The case helped bring the issue of workplace sexual harassment to the forefront and bring about potential legislative reforms on how sexual harassment complaints are handled and investigated.
Employers should take heed of some of the recommendations in the report, which include:
- clarifying behavioural standards and accountability
- raising awareness of those standards and accountabilities
- creating uniform and fair enforcement of behavioural standards and workplace rules
- enhancing existing mechanisms for reporting inappropriate workplace behaviour
- enhancing channels of communication about employees’ workplace experiences and to obtain data
- creating an additional system to address overall fairness in the workplace
All employers are recommended to take a look at their own policies and procedures in the workplace to ensure that they are doing all they can do to ensure that they are providing their employees with a safe and respectful environment that is free of harassment and discrimination.
We will keep you posted on the verdict once it is known.