Human Rights Advisory Services

Human Rights Advisory Services
Human Rights Advisory Services

Inadequate Response for Coworkers

Bottom Line

Employers have a duty to ensure that the environment has been restored for all staff, not just for the complaint.

Workplace harassment

In Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union v Capital District Health Authority (harassment policy grievance) , 25 employees were being exposed to a poisoned environment caused by a supervisor who sexually harassed female staff.  17 of the employees, feeling bullied and harassed, went to a manager to explain what was going on.

Failure to Respond

The manager failed to respond to the plight of the 17 staff members for two reasons:  1) She had rationalized the harassment as being innocent conduct in a workplace culture of joking  and 2) she  because she had guaranteed confidentiality to many of the complainants.   When 4 of the 17 employees filed a grievance, the employer retained an external investigator who found that the supervisor had harassed and bullied his staff and that management had failed to respond properly. In mediation, the parties could not agree upon damages, so the case went to arbitration.

Arbitrator Response

The Arbitration ruling held that employers are responsible for the effects of workplace harassment on all employees, whether they file grievances or not.  In awarding compensation to the unit as a whole, the Arbitrator said “…I was struck not so much by the impact of each individual complaint, but by the overall effect these events must have had on the whole experience of working .. under this manager…It is appropriate in these circumstances that the impact on the whole group be recognized.”