Human Rights Advisory Services

Human Rights Advisory Services
Human Rights Advisory Services

Workplace Investigations – Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) & Canadian Olympic Committee (COC)

CBC – Jian Ghomeshi

This workplace investigation was prompted by the termination of Jian Ghomeshi and the allegations of inappropriate behaviour in the workplace. In total 99 people were interviewed as part of this investigation.  An interview request was sent to Mr. Ghohmeshi’s legal counsel but he declined to be interviewed as part of this process. Through the analysis of interview material and the commonalities presented in these interviews, seven overarching conclusions were drawn through this investigation. In the case of CBC workplace investigation the full report, excluding redactions was publicly released.

Overarching Conclusions:

1. Breach of the Behavioural Standard
“There was behaviour and conduct on the part of Mr. Ghomeshi that was contrary to the Behavioural Standard established by the CBC. Most prevalent was behaviour that was disrespectful, including behaviour that is "considered to create an intimidating, humiliating, hostile or offensive work environment". Less prevalent, but also present in a small number of cases, was behaviour that constituted sexual harassment” (p. 42-43).

2. Knowledge of Management
“Management knew or ought to have known of this behaviour and conduct and failed to take steps required of it in accordance with its own policies to ensure that the workplace was free from disrespectful and abusive conduct. It is our conclusion that CBC
management condoned this behaviour” (p. 43).

3. Missed Opportunities to Investigate
“More specifically, management failed to adequately respond to information it received from employees that behaviour and conduct contrary to the Behavioural Standard existed in the workplace. Indeed, we have identified in our Report at least three such
opportunities for management to inquire and investigate allegations and concerns regarding problematic behaviour that it failed to adequately pursue and address. These opportunities were:

(a) The Red Sky Document presented to management in the summer of 2012. Management took some steps to respond to issues regarding workflow, volume of work, and characterization of roles, but it failed to address the key issue of Mr. Ghomeshi's behaviour in the workplace;

 (b) An allegation made known to management in the summer of 2014 that inappropriate behaviour on the part of Mr. Ghomeshi might have crossed over in the workplace. While steps were taken in response to this allegation, they were insufficiently probative, too narrow, misdirected and flawed. While a more comprehensive investigation was warranted under the circumstances, one did not occur; and

( c) Management's receipt of communication from an employee who described the presence of various objectionable behaviours on the part of Mr. Ghomeshi”(p. 43).

4. The Role of the Union
“We do not believe the allegation of sexual harassment made by an employee in 2010 came to the attention of management. In this regard, we have concluded that it did come to the attention of the CMG, and it failed to respond properly” (p. 44).

5. Existence of “Host Culture”
Host Culture – Was described as having a number of features:
-people who occupy a role of a host have big personalities, big egos and big demands
-certain types of host behaviour were tolerated and presumed necessary for the job
-keep the host happy despite conflicts or difficulties
-hosts have the ear of management
“While the Behavioural Standard is articulated in various policies and articles in the Collective Agreement, in the case of Mr. Ghomeshi, little and insufficient regard was paid to this standard by those who managed him at the CBC, and those who made decisions about his employment at the CBC. In this regard, we have concluded that what is commonly referred to as "Host Culture" was a contributing factor. This failure to appropriately manage contributed to the existence and persistence of the behaviour and
conduct identified above” (p. 44).

6. Who is the Boss?
“We have also concluded that there was no one who had clear and consistent authority over Mr. Ghomeshi on a day-to-day basis in the workplace. This contributed to an environment in which breaches of the Behavioural Standard occurred. There is a flaw in the manner in which the Q workplace was designed. Producers, the Executive Producer, and Mr. Ghomeshi were all in the same bargaining unit” (p. 44)

7. Weak Systems and Procedures
i. Over-Reliance on Formal Complaints
ii. Lack of Comprehensive Data
iii. Narrow Survey Information
iv. No System to Measure Behaviour
v. Generic Training
“We noted the presence of weak systems and processes on the part of the CBC. This formed part of the overall context in which behavioural breaches on the part of Mr. Ghomeshi were allowed to occur” (p. 44).

In response to these overarching conclusions, nine recommendations were made.


1. Review and Clarify Policies which set out the Behavioural Standard and with the CMG review related Articles in the Collective Agreement
2. Training
3. Conduct Surveys and “Spot Audits”
4. Establish a Confidential Workplace Hotline
5. Refresh Workplace Investigation Competencies and Data Keeping
6. Establish a Respect at Work and Human Rights Ombudsperson
7. Examination of the Role of Executive Producer
8. Respect at Work Competencies to be Included in Every Stage of the Employment Relationship
9. Task Force with the CMG to Address Young People in Organization
Overall it was stated that if the CBC was serious about making changes, a culture shift in the organization was needed. The shift needed to be consistent and infused within everyday activities.

Canadian Olympic Committee

Following allegations of sexual harassment on the part of the former President of the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) a workplace investigation was commenced. In this particular case, the COC released a summary of the workplace investigation. The summary breaks down the findings from the workplace investigation into four areas.

Findings and Conclusions:

1. Information Collected from those Individuals who came Forward Voluntarily to Share their Experiences

•    A majority of COC staff interviewed reported experiencing or witnessing harassment (both sexual and personal) during the President’s tenure, both inside and outside of the COC’s offices.

•    Some non-COC staff who were interviewed also reported witnessing the President engaging in harassing behaviour (either sexual or personal) outside of the COC’s offices in situations in which he was acting as a representative of the COC.

•    There exists a perception amongst the COC staff that the Board and the SLT(Senior Leadership Team) were aware of information that suggested that harassment was occurring in their workplace and they were unable or unwilling to take steps to address it. As such, many COC staff feel     that the Board and the SLT failed in their obligation to provide a safe environment for     COC employees.

•    There are occasions when certain managers or members of the Senior Leadership Team (SLT) admitted to being in possession of information that suggested that harassment was occurring for COC staff. These same managers and members of the SLT admitted that there were times when they either (i) did not do anything with this information (in some cases because they either did not recognize the behaviour in question as legally problematic, or they did not know what to do with the information); (ii) took steps to try and mitigate or minimize the behaviour for the employee in question, but did not take steps to try to stop the behaviour from occurring; or (iii) passed the information along to someone else but it is unclear as to whether this information was ever acted upon.

•    Many COC staff are not familiar with the contents of the Policy, were unsure where to find it, and no one recalls having ever been trained on the Policy. There is confusion on the part of COC staff about what constitutes inappropriate workplace behaviour, and the mechanism for complaining about concerns of this nature (p. 3-4).

2. Information Relating to the Letter of June 13, 2011 and VANOC

As part of the investigation terms of reference it was important to determine what the COC Board and/or members of the senior leadership team knew about the complaints made to VANOC about the conduct of the President.

•    Although the decision to present the President with the Letter was prompted by one particular employee issue brought forward in April of 2011, there is information in the COC HR file regarding concerns about the President’s behaviour dating back to 2008 which contributed to the decision.

•    In reaching its decision to provide the President with a Letter in 2011, it appears that representatives of the COC sought to balance the interests of the individuals who had come forward with information and who did not wish to make formal complaints and were afraid of retribution, and the obligation to ensure a harassment-free workplace. Consideration also appears to have been given to the fact that a previous message about the President’s behaviour which was delivered to him at a lunch with the then     CEO in 2008 was vague, did not reference specifics and was not followed by anything in     writing.

•    Those who presented the President with the Letter did not advise the Board at the time.

•    With the exception of an employee engagement survey done in 2014 and a more recent Survey in September of 2015, no monitoring was done of the President’s behaviour after the presentation of the Letter, despite what appears to be recognition on the part of the certain COC representatives that such monitoring was necessary.

•    No training was done on the Policy at any time, and specifically after the presentation of the Letter, despite advice having been received in this regard. Had training been provided to staff back in 2011, employees would have had a far better understanding of the types of behaviour that are prohibited in the workplace and would have better understood how to address these issues if they were occurring. At a minimum, conducting training of this nature sends a message to all staff that a workplace that is
free of discrimination and harassment is important to the organization, and this was a lost opportunity on the part of the COC to communicate this message to its employees.

•    Following provision to the President of the Letter, certain members of the SLT did have information regarding alleged behaviour which, if true, could constitute harassment on the part of the President and other COC employees. There appears to have been no
meaningful steps taken in response to receipt of this information.

•    Two COC executives and three members of the Board received information about the VANOC matters, most of which was non-specific and incomplete. This information was never documented and was not shared with the Board as a whole.

3. Policy Review

•    The Policy, while technically sound, should be enhanced in order to make it clearer and more accessible to COC staff, and to clarify an obligation to report incidents of harassment or discrimination.

•    The Policy should also be enhanced to provide for mechanisms for reporting and resolving issues as an alternative to filing a formal complaint. Although a formal complaint mechanism is an important component of an effective harassment policy, exclusive reliance on formal complaints can be problematic for various reasons. In this case, those at the COC who were attempting to deal with concerns which were brought to their attention appear to have found the language in the Policy to be restrictive when the person bringing forward the concern was unwilling to initiate a formal complaint.

•    There is currently no consistent process or procedure in place which ensures that employees of the COC are familiar with, have read or understand the contents of the Policy.

•    There has been no training on the Policy since at least 2001, and nothing since 2011 when the President was presented with the Letter.

•    There are opportunities to further reinforce the required standards of behaviour within the COC in both the “Policy Statement and Guidelines on Ethics” and the “Policy Statement and Guidelines on Whistleblowing” (hereinafter referred to respectively as the “Ethics Policy” and the “Whistleblowing Policy”).

4. Governance

•    There was no explicit provision in COC’s governance framework for Board oversight of human resources and the workplace environment.

•    COC’s governance framework did not set out a comprehensive approach to standards of conduct, and specifically of standards applicable to directors and officers.

•    There was no explicit mechanism within COC’s policy framework for individuals to raise issues of concern regarding a director’s conduct to the Board other than through a     formal complaint under the Policy.

•    There was lack of clarity in COC’s governance framework between the role and authority of the Board versus the role and authority of the President which enabled the President to exercise significant control.


1. Policy Enhancements
2. Training
3. Appoint an Individual with Overall Responsibility for Policy Implementation and Administration
4. Establish a Record Keeping System
5. Ensure a Means by Which Individuals can Lodge Anonymous Complaints
6. Consider Revising the Terms of Reference for the Ethics Commissioner to Establish an Independent Resource for Individuals to Bring Forward Concerns Relative to the Policy
7. More Emphasis on “Respect” and “Wellbeing” as Core Values of the COC for Employees
8. Continued Use of Surveys and Other Forms of Review to Monitor Culture and Confirm Effective Administration and Enforcement of Policies

As an overarching recommendation it was suggested that the COC really needed to examine and prioritize the health and well-being of its staff to ensure that they were able to move forward productively.