Posts in Respect in the Workplace

Respect Group/Workplace Fairness Institute Action Summit

November 4th, 2019 Respect in the Workplace

Is your organization at a loss as how to address psychological health and safety or challenged with Alberta’s new Occupation Health and Safety code?  We are bringing support.  Join us for the day to get insight into this complex issue and take away real tools you can immediately apply in your workplace.

Our upcoming Action Summit will examine the intersection of Psychological Health and Safety and Civility & Respect.  You won’t want to miss it so join us on January 29th, 2020.

Summit Developers

The Workplace Fairness Institute and Respect Group


As partners, the Workplace Fairness Institute and Workplace Fairness West believe that psychological health and safety is AS important as physical health and safety.  That is why we support organizations across Canada to create working environments in which employees can thrive. Whether that’s promoting civility and respect, addressing bullying/harassment, managing conflict, training employees, or coaching leaders we have the expertise and knowledge to partner with businesses to create strong and healthy employees.  When employees thrive, businesses succeed.

That’s also why we work closely with Respect Group and agreed to step up in Alberta to provide a learning opportunity for organizations and employees to address issues focused on psychological health and safety and civility and respect.

Who Should Attend?

Sessions will benefit:

  • Senior HR Professionals
  • Senior Occupational Health and Safety Professionals
  • Union Representatives
  • Municipalities
  • Business Leaders
  • Educational Institutions
  • Non profits

Why Should I Attend?

By attending you will:

  • Understand what your duty is as an employer to address the OHS issues and their impact on psychological health and safety.
  • Walk away with a road map of what your organization needs to do to create or improve upon a psychologically healthy workplace
  • Receive compliance and risk reduction ideas and solutions that can be easily implemented within your organization.
  • Be able to build a business case, determine your organizations return on investment and successfully position the importance and value within your organization
  • Hear from other leading organizations as they share their experiences regarding challenges and successes in creating psychologically healthy workplaces.


What’s my Investment?

Your investment will provide on-going value for yourself and your organization.  Ticket prices are deliberately kept low to ensure that we are able to support all participants.  Sales are limited so act soon.

Regular – $199

Early Bird – 20% off Until December 15th, 2019

Group Rate – 35% off regular price for groups of 4 or more

Purchase your tickets HERE

Where will the learning happen?

Join us in Calgary, Alberta on January 29, 2020 at the historic Grand Theater.  An appropriate setting to engage participants to be creative, join in the facilitated discussions of the day and experience new learning.

608 1st St. SW    Calgary Alberta

Conveniently located just off the C-Train Line
Available Parking – James Short Parkade 115 4th Ave SW, Indigo Parkade at Centre Street – North of 7th Ave SW

What does the Day Look Like?

For Detailed Session Information click here.

8:30-9:00 Registration

9:00-9:15 Intro & Opening Remarks – Sheldon Kennedy – The Human Cost of Psychological Health and Safety

9:15-10:15 Fireside Chat – Psychological Health and Safety – Where are we now? 

10:15-10:30 Networking Break

10:30-12:00 Morning Breakout Sessions

  1. How can we position our people and organization’s culture to always place RESPECT first in everything we do?
  2. Developing a Roadmap to Create a Psychological Safe Workplace

12:00-1:00 Lunch

1:00-2:15  ROI and Building the Business Case – Sharing Resources

2:15-2:30 Networking Break

2:30-3:45 Afternoon Breakout Sessions – Sharing the Journey to Psychological Health & Safety

  • Non-Profit: Calgary Drop-In Centre
  • Municipality: City of Lethbridge
  • Union: TBD

3:45-4:00 Wrap-up

4:00-5:00 Join us in the Mezzanine for networking after conference


Who will be joining us?

For Speaker Bio’s click here.

Sheldon Kennedy – Internationally known Abuse Prevention Advocate

Dr. Pat Ferris – International Bullying/Harassment Expert, researcher and social worker focused on the treatment of bullying/harassment targets

Wayne McNeil – – Co-founder Respect Group and Canadian Red Cross Caring Award Recipient

Cameron Mitchell – President Kasa Consulting , Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) representative, Canadian Registered Safety Professional (CRSP) and certified COR auditor

Blaine Donais – Present and Founder of the Workplace Fairness Institute, workplace conflict management specialist and author of Workplaces that Work, Engaging Unionized Employees and The Art & Science of Workplace Mediation.

Brad Blaisdell – Western Regional Director of the Respect in the Workplace Program at Respect Group

Danica Kelly – Eastern Regional Director of the Respect in the Workplace Program at Respect Group

Michelle Phaneuf – Partner Workplace Fairness West, certified Psychological Health and Safety Adviser and experienced workplace restoration expert.

Sandra Clarkson – Executive Director of the Calgary Drop-In Centre

Barb Neckich – Senior Human Resources Consultant, City of Lethbridge

Psychological safety part of amended occupational health act

October 28th, 2019 Respect in the Workplace

SOURCE: Kevin Yarr · CBC News · 


Government is giving employers time to prepare for the new rules


The P.E.I. government is rolling out a public education campaign over the next several months on new workplace harassment regulations and an Act to Amend the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

The changes include a definition of harassment, set out the responsibilities of workers and employers and require employers to have a policy on workplace harassment.

“Employers will have a responsibility to ensure the safety of the workers. And this will include not just physical safety, but their psychological safety as well,” said Danny Miller, director of occupational health and safety.

“It’s our hope that these regulations will go a long way to improve awareness, education and the prevention of workplace harassment.”

The new regulations were prompted by a 2013 incident, in which the Workers Compensation Board found workplace bullying and the related stress was likely the cause of the death of an Island man.


The regulations include information on how to make a harassment complaint and how that complaint should be investigated. They will come into effect in July.

Miller said the delay in bringing in the changes will allow employers and workers a reasonable amount of time to understand the legislation and prepare for it.

A guide to the new rules has been developed. In advance of implementation there will be public education sessions as well as workshops for employers.



Respect Group and Workplace Fairness Action Summit: The Intersection of Psychological Health & Safety and Civility & Respect

October 24th, 2019 Respect in the Workplace, Uncategorised




Is your organization at a loss as how to address psychological health and safety or challenged with Alberta’s new Occupation Health and Safety (OHS) code?  We are bringing support.  Join us for the day to get insight into this complex issue and take away real tools you can immediately apply in your workplace.   This Action Summit will examine the intersection of Psychological Health and Safety and Civility & Respect.

Sessions will benefit Senior HR Professionals, Senior Occupational Health and Safety Professionals, and those leading Municipalities, Businesses, Unions, Educational Institutions and Non profits.

By attending you will:

  • Understand what your duty is as an employer to address the OHS issues and their impact on psychological health and safety.
  • Walk away with a road map of what your organization needs to do to create or improve upon a psychologically healthy workplace
  • Receive compliance and risk reduction ideas and solutions that can be easily implemented within your organization.
  • Be able to build a business case, determine your organizations return on investment and successfully position the importance and value within your organization
  • Hear from other leading organizations as they share their experiences regarding challenges and successes in creating psychologically health workplaces.


More details on the day including a full agenda can be found here:



Preventing BAHD Behaviours in your Workplace

August 21st, 2019 Respect in the Workplace

In Partnership with the National Golf Course Owners Association Canada (NGCOA)
Golf Business Canada Fall 2019

Authors: Brad Blaisdell & Michelle Phaneuf

Brad is the Regional Director – Respect in the Workplace for Respect Group which focuses on the prevention of bullying, abuse, harassment and discrimination. Michelle is a partner with Workplace Fairness West and the Workplace Fairness Institute. Contact Brad at and Michelle at

Workplaces are complex, dynamic environments. Like golf, to improve your overall game or operations you need to recognize and adjust your physical game, but also your mental game. Employers today recognize the value of a healthy workplace, and that psychological health and safety is AS important as physical health and safety.

How we work, who we are, our attitudes, and behaviour are diverse and unique. When everyone interacts respectfully this diversity fosters a robust workplace and an inviting operation for staff. However, without that foundation of respect, BAHD (Bullying, Abuse, Harassment & Discrimination) behaviours can creep in. According to the Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety these behaviours might look like:

Preventing BAHD Behaviours in your Workplace

  • Spreading malicious rumours, gossip, or
  • Excluding or isolating someone
  • Intimidating a
  • Undermining or deliberately impeding a person’s
  • Physically abusing or threatening
  • Making verbal or emails jokes that are ‘obviously offensive’
  • Yelling or using
  • Criticizing a person persistently or
  • Belittling a person

If left unchecked, BAHD can turn an otherwise healthy workplace into a toxic environment and the cost of doing nothing adds up quickly.


3 in 10 Canadians say their workplaces are not psychologically safe and healthy1, and nearly half report having experienced one or more acts of workplace harassment at least once a week for the last six months.2 Employees coping with these toxic work environments take twice as much sick time.3 Statistics Canada estimates the cost of employee absence due to bullying and harassment is roughly $19 billion per year.

Toxic workplaces not only affect employee absence but also impact productivity and efficiency. 80% of employees in toxic workplaces spend significant time and energy focused on the BAHD behaviour taking time away from their work and 48% reduce their effort.4 Considering an annual wage of $60,000, an example of 20% reduction in productivity can equate to a $12,000 loss per employee. This can have a significant financial impact on organizations of all sizes.

KPMG’s Diversity and Inclusion Group recently hosted a panel event in Toronto to discuss the issues around workplace bullying and harassment. Their panel included:

Louise Bradley, president and CEO, Mental Health Commission of Canada, Pamela Jeffery, president, The Pamela Jeffery Group, Soula Courlas, partner, KPMG, and Sheldon Kennedy, former NHL player, abuse survivor and co-founder of the Respect Group.

The panellists noted that ignoring the issue not only affects employee retention, but it hurts productivity and profitability.5 Experiencing bullying and harassment in the workplace can trigger mental health problems and illnesses, which, according to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, are the leading cause of short – and long – term disability.6 The economic burden in Canada has been estimated at $51 billion per year.


Governments across Canada are recognizing the importance of psychological health and safety, and legislation is in effect to guide organizations to manage these issues. While legislation may differ from province to province, many have clear guidelines and expectations for employers.

Workers Compensation Boards are also accepting claims focused on psychological injuries including wording such as: clear and confirmed harassing behaviour at the workplace where a worker has been subjected to threats of harm, violations of personal privacy, public shaming or baseless threats to his or her employment status. Employers large and small have the duty to ensure their workplaces are harassment free and are exposing themselves to legal and financial risk if they do not address BAHD behaviours.

Sheldon Kennedy indicated in the panel discussion that, “Leaders and operators need to ask the tough questions to determine if this type of behaviour is happening in their organization. They need to be prepared for what they might find and be committed to taking action to address and end it.”


A shocking 55% of surveyed Canadians reported experiencing bullying in the workplace, including name-calling, physical aggression and online taunts, according to a 2018 poll by Forum Research. Worse still, the study found that only one third of companies took action to stop the perpetrators. While pointing out the risks of not addressing the issue, the panellists noted that many organizations are taking real action to address the issue. “This isn’t just about focusing on the bad individuals,” said Kennedy. “Ninety-eight percent of individuals want to be good, so focus on them and give them the tools to be better.”

For those companies who don’t know where to start, the panellists said the most important step was instituting a culture of respect and zero tolerance for toxic behaviour in their organizations — a tone that needs to come straight from the golf course owner or operator, or general manager. “This will require a willingness from leadership to face the hard truths about what is happening inside their walls,” said Courlas. “Bullying can be subtle. Education is key to helping people recognize it. Leadership has a duty to proactively work towards eradicating this type of behaviour, which will inevitably help unlock the best of their people. Making good people better is the end goal and is completely attainable.”

WorkSafe BC has created guidelines to support employers in responding effectively:

ENCOURAGE everyone at the workplace to act towards others in a respectful and professional manner.

HAVE a workplace policy in place that includes a reporting system.

EDUCATE everyone that bullying is a serious matter.

TRY TO WORK OUT solutions before the situation gets serious or “out of control.”

EDUCATE everyone about what is considered bullying, and whom they can go to for help.

TREAT all complaints seriously, and deal with complaints promptly and confidentially.

TRAIN supervisors and managers in how to deal with complaints and potential situations. Encourage them to address situations promptly whether or not a formal complaint has been filed.

HAVE an impartial third party help with the resolution, if necessary.

They recommend that organizations act as soon as possible, not ignore any potential problems and not delay resolution.

Employers large and small must implement procedures for responding to reports or incidents of bullying and harassment. The procedures must ensure a reasonable response to the report or incident and aim to fully address the incident and ensure that bullying and harassment is prevented or minimized in the future. Investigations into the incident may be required or an impartial third party may be a resource for resolving the situation or restoring the workplace after an investigation has taken place.

In addition to clear policies and procedures, other best practices include a no-reprisals policy, confidential whistleblower lines, a workplace Ombudsman and due diligence on new hires.


Thankfully, today’s work climate is changing. Top organizations are less reactive and more proactive than ever before. Employee wellness has become a priority because happy, engaged employees are more productive, collaborative, and innovative and will be much more client focused. Meeting and exceeding client expectations is next to impossible if trust between co- workers is broken, they are not engaged, appreciated, or acknowledged for the good work they do.

According to Wayne McNeil, co-founder of Respect Group, “Polices and procedures are necessary, but they typically sit on the shelf until an issue arises. You really do need to have proactive training that creates standards, empowers the bystander and refers to the policies/procedures. Ultimately, your risk mitigation strategy needs to be in sync with your desire to drive a positive culture.”

He indicates that this message needs to come from leadership. It can start with HR professionals saying that they need to be proactive; they can plant the seed. But the tone of the culture, the commitment and the accountability must be set by senior leadership.

Blaine Donais, president and founder of the Workplace Fairness Institute says, “Unresolved conflict is one of the top 5 indicators of bullying and harassment. Organizations need to ensure that employees have options to successfully resolve conflict. We have found that instituting a Workplace Ombudsman Office provides employees with a safe, confidential space to support in the resolution of conflict.”

Bullying, Abuse, Harassment, and Discrimination can be successfully addressed when it appears, and golf course course owners and operators can take steps to be proactive in preventing these behaviours. These steps will help your organization to create an environment in which employees can be successful, thereby ensuring your operation’s success.



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(5 ) Addressing workplace bullying, harassment must be a business priority, Panel January 31st, 2019




Law firm ordered to pay student nearly $70K for wrongful firing that led to her becoming homeless

August 19th, 2019 Respect in the Workplace

A prominent Vancouver law firm has been ordered to pay almost $70,000 for wrongfully dismissing an articling student, who ended up unemployed and homeless for several months after she was fired.

A B.C. Supreme Court justice found that Melissa Ojanen, who graduated from law school in 2016, was mistreated while working at Acumen Law Corporation.

She had been hired as an articling student in what was supposed to be a 12-month placement that included a 10-week professional legal training course.

“She is the victim of unfair, bullying, bad-faith conduct by her former employer and her former principal and has suffered substantial and prolonged emotional distress because of that conduct,” wrote Justice Geoffrey Gomery in the decision.

“The consequences for Ms. Ojanen were severe. She was unable to obtain alternate articles and has not been called to the bar.”

‘Unnecessary and psychologically brutal’

Acumen specializes in driving law. According to the judgment, Acumen founder Paul Doroshenko fired Ojanen publicly after discovering a blog about driving prohibitions that he believed she was running.

Doroshenko argued it was too similar to one the firm runs.

“Mr. Doroshenko’s response on discovering the blog was disproportionate and bullying,” Gomery wrote.

“I find that he was determined to protect Acumen’s competitive position by making an example of Ms. Ojanen.”

Paul Doroshenko, founder of Acumen, is a prominent defence lawyer in Vancouver. (CBC News)

Doroshenko accused the student of breach of contract, theft, trespassing and wrongful use of marketing materials belonging to the firm. The judge dismissed the allegations, noting they were “harsh and unwarranted.”

Gomery also noted the firm’s actions — including serving a lawsuit against Ojanen in front of her classmates, rather than mailing it to her — was “unnecessary and psychologically brutal.”

After she was fired, Ojanen struggled to find employment and pay rent, according to the ruling.

She lived out of her car for three months — and when her husband, whom she is separated from, repossessed the vehicle, she briefly lived on the streets before her parents took her in.

“Pending the resolution of this lawsuit, her life has been on hold,” wrote Gomery.

Ojanen was awarded $50,000 for aggravated damages, as well as ordinary damages of $18,934 for lost wages.

Never too busy for investigations If employers can’t find time to investigate harassment, they’ll pay damages later

Never too busy for investigations If employers can’t find time to investigate harassment, they’ll pay damages later

August 15th, 2019 Respect in the Workplace

Source: Occupational Health and Safety 

By: Jeffrey R. Smith

It can be busy to run a company and manage employees. At times, most business owners and managers probably feel it’s almost impossible to juggle all the things being asked of them. However, regardless of how busy things are, they can’t use it as an excuse not to properly investigate allegations of workplace harassment or bullying.

All employers in Canada have a legal obligation to properly and fairly investigate allegations of harassment, bullying and violence in the workplace. After all, they are also legally required to provide a workplace free of such threats, so when the possibility of any of these things occurring is raised, they need to find out if it happened and if it did, take measures to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

It’s a human rights matter, a health and safety matter, and a workplace culture matter.

Unfortunately, proper investigations don’t always happen. This is evident in the numerous employment law cases involving alleged workplace harassment, bullying, and violence that were deemed not to have been properly resolved by the employers involved. And usually this means the employer must pay.

The Ontario Superior Court recently heard a case where an employee made a formal complaint that a co-worker verbally harassed her on multiple occasions, including yelling and screaming at her and calling her an idiot. The president of the company acknowledged her complaint, but said they were currently short-staffed due to illnesses and vacation, so he would pass it along to the HR department.

However, no-one did anything over the ensuing month, and the employee complained again that her co-worker continued to yell at her and insult her, saying she was at her “wit’s end.” Still, nothing was done.

One month after the employee’s second complaint and two months after her initial complaint, the employee claimed the co-worker slapped her across the face three times. She reported this to the employer and filed a police report, but her employment was terminated the same day after 19 years of service.

Not surprisingly, the employee won a claim of wrongful dismissal and the employer was ordered to compensate her for lost pay in lieu of reasonable notice. The court also found the employer was guilty of bad-faith conduct when it failed to investigate the employee’s harassment complaints or discipline her abusive co-worker, terminated her as a reprisal for her complaints, and didn’t provide her with her statutory entitlements upon termination.

This warranted an extra $50,000 in aggravated damages, for a total award of more than $194,000.

It’s likely that when the company president in the above case received the employee’s complaint, it was the last thing he wanted to have to deal with, and he most likely felt he didn’t have time to deal with it. But it doesn’t really matter, because he legally had to deal with it. Failing to prioritize the complaint and not getting around to investigating it spelled trouble in the end for the employer — trouble that was compounded when the employer dismissed the employee rather than deal with her continuing complaints.

The employee already was entitled to a good amount of common law reasonable notice, with 19 years of service, but the aggravated damages just piled on the high cost of the employer’s poor handling of the affair.

It’s not a good idea to push workplace harassment complaints to the side. If a company doesn’t have time to address them, then it’s going to have to make time to write some big cheques later.

Workplace harassment on the agenda as Canadian police chiefs meet in Calgary

Workplace harassment on the agenda as Canadian police chiefs meet in Calgary

August 15th, 2019 Respect in the Workplace

SOURCE: Global News The Canadian Press


How to deal with bullying and harassment in the workplace is to be discussed as Canada’s police chiefs gather in Alberta for their annual meeting.

The conference of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police in Calgary has attracted 425 delegates and is to address a number of human resources issues, including how to create a safer and healthier environment for employees.

The RCMP recently settled class-action lawsuits that will pay out millions to compensate for discrimination, bullying and harassment of female employees over the last 45 years.


Similar concerns have been expressed by female officers in Calgary, which prompted a review of the force’s human resources branch.

“Obviously the topic is right on point. We’ve brought speakers in from all over the world to speak on these types of issues,” Calgary police Chief Mark Neufeld told a news conference Monday.

“We’ve got lots of work to do and … as our environment changes and as society changes we will continue to have work. The work we’re talking about here I don’t think will ever be done.”


Association president, Vancouver police Chief Adam Palmer, said harassment exists in many different professions, but none has the same level of scrutiny as law enforcement.

“We’re always under the microscope for everything we do … rightfully so because we have extraordinary powers in society and everything that we’re doing tends to come to the forefront more than other occupations.”

Lessons learned from the RCMP lawsuits are likely to be discussed at the three-day conference, Palmer said.

“Nobody is doing this perfectly and there’s no magic bullet that anyone’s found.”

Palmer added that attitudes are changing as an increasing number of veteran officers continue to retire.

Workplace Changes Coming September To Federally Regulated Companies

August 15th, 2019 Respect in the Workplace
SOURCE: Last Updated: August 14 2019

Article by Lori SterlingJohn Gilmore and John C. Batzel

This fall there will be significant labour reforms in the federal sector.

As well, consultations will continue on pay equity, pay transparency, protection of wages where the employer is bankrupt, sexual harassment, accessibility for persons with disabilities and reforms of labour standards to deal with part-time and temporary workers.

Here are the key changes for this fall.

Unpaid Interns

Unpaid internships are no longer allowed in federally regulated workplaces unless the student is part of a workplace learning experience that is a mandatory part of an educational program. The educational program must be at a recognized post-secondary or vocational educational institution. This reform was designed to halt the increase in unpaid internships.

Even if a student is allowed an unpaid internship, he or she is still subject to selected Canada Labour Codeprotections including general holidays, breaks, notice of schedule of work, maximum hours of work, maternity, bereavement, medical and other leaves. The unpaid intern is also covered by occupational health and safety protections and the new sexual harassment provisions.

All other students will be considered employees and entitled to the full range of labour protections including minimum wage.

New Employment Standards

These reforms relate to employment standards legislation passed in 2017 as well as some of the labour reforms passed in the 2018 Budget.

(i) Flex Work

Where an employee has at least six consecutive months of continuous employment, he or she will have the right to request flexible work arrangements. The employer has to consider the request but does not have to grant it where there are operational or financial reasons for the denial. Both request and response have to be in writing.

(ii) Leaves

  • There is a new personal leave of up to five days with the first three days being paid. This leave is more generous and replaces prior medical leave provisions.
  • There is a new provision requiring leave for court or jury days.
  • There is an increase in entitlement to bereavement leave from three day to five days as long as an employee has three consecutive months of continuous employment. Only three of the five days are paid leaves. This leave need no longer be taken at one time.
  • Indigenous persons can take up to five days for traditional practices.
  • There is also a new leave to deal with victims of family violence. An individual can request up to ten days with five of these days being paid.
  • There is no increase in vacation time. However, employees can now take annual vacations in more than one period.
  • Employees will have the right to request replacement of a holiday which they have to work with any other day.
  • In the longshore and other similar industries, employees are employed by multiple employers. The new regulations combine these employers for purposes of being eligible for certain leaves including the new ones noted above.

(iii) Hours of Work, Overtime and Notice of Schedule Change

There are new provisions to deal with overtime work. Where the employer agrees, employees may take time off instead of receiving pay for overtime hours worked.

Employers are also required to provide at least 96 hours’ notice of a schedule change and 24 hours’ notice of a shift change unless there is an emergency. Employees can also refuse overtime in some circumstances.

Where the nature of work necessitates an irregular distribution of hours of work, an employer can average those hours over a period of two weeks or more. This provision is particularly important in the transportation industry where an employee can work an extended period of time in one shift. The Regulations make it clear that any paid days for personal leave or family violence leave are included in the calculation of the average hours of work.

(iv) Record Keeping and Posting

There is also a new requirement for employers to keep records for a period of at least three years after the work is performed. As well, all employment standards have to be posted in an accessible location.

Compliance and Enforcement

The main reforms relating to administrative monetary penalties will not come into force until 2020 but in the fall of 2019 there will be the coming into force of the transfer of powers to the Canada Industrial Relations Board of appeals relating to occupational health and safety, labour standards and wage earner protections of a bankrupt firm.


The reforms listed above are significant but there are still many reforms that have been legislated but are not yet in force. The federal election in October 2019 may have slowed down implementation of the remaining reforms until at least the spring of 2020. As well, the outcome of the election may impact which reforms ultimately do come into force. Labour provisions are frequently changed when there is a change in the political party that forms the government.

If the Liberal government is re-elected, it is possible that there could be further reforms as the government appointed an independent panel on federal labour standards to consider further reforms. That report has just been published and has extensive recommendations including a freestanding federal minimum wage.

Even in the absence of further reforms, if all existing reforms are implemented, it will be the most significant reform of the Canada Labour Code in the last 50 years.

Stay tuned as we will be tracking these reforms in the coming year.

Sexual harassment complaints soaring amid ‘frat boy culture’ in airline industry

July 22nd, 2019 Respect in the Workplace



Posted Jul 19, 2019 5:00 am PDT

Mandalena Lewis was enjoying a layover in Hawaii with her WestJet co-workers the night she says a pilot pinned her down and tried to force her to have sex.

“I escaped being raped, but I was sexually assaulted,” the former flight attendant said.

A warm Sunday evening on the sands of Maui’s Makena Beach Resort in January 2010 had led to a group dinner and then an invitation from the pilot to have drinks on his balcony, which she accepted. Once in the room, he “dragged her onto the bed, kissing her and groping her” as she “physically resisted the assault and yelled for him to stop,” according to Lewis’s 2016 lawsuit against WestJet, filed in B.C. Supreme Court.

“It was a terrible situation. It was traumatizing,” Lewis, 33, told The Canadian Press.

Lewis later learned that WestJet had investigated a complaint from a flight attendant two years earlier alleging the same pilot had sexually assaulted her during a layover in Alberta, according to the lawsuit. It states the company did not discipline or fire him, nor take steps to warn or protect women scheduled to work with him.

WestJet has denied the allegations, which have not been proven in court.

Fired in 2016 after eight years with WestJet, Lewis has spoken out publicly about the “toxic” relations and “cowboy culture” at airlines and launched a proposed class action lawsuit against her former employer.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear WestJet’s arguments to quash the lawsuit, which accuses the airline of failing to provide a harassment-free workplace for women. WestJet previously failed to scuttle the action in the B.C. courts after arguing that the dispute belongs in the quasi-judicial realm.

Airline insiders say the alleged incident speaks to an industry plagued by sexual harassment and gender discrimination as it struggles to shed a “frat boy culture” among pilots that plays out in everything from lewd jokes in the cockpit to “midnight knockers” at the hotel door.

The Canadian Press spoke with seven current and former flight attendants and multiple experts who say aviation is struggling to rise above 20th-century attitudes and adapt to the #MeToo era.

Complaints citing sex in the flight industry have more than doubled over the past decade or so, totalling 118 in the period between 2014 and 2018, according to the Canadian Human Rights Commission. Harassment-specific complaints that cite sex rose 58 per cent between 2004 and 2018.

By comparison, other federally regulated industries such as banking, broadcasting and telecommunications saw fewer than 10 complaints collectively over the past 15 years, according to the commission, despite having much bigger workforces.

Airline employees highlighted a lopsided dynamic in which men occupy the vast majority of pilot jobs — 93 per cent at Air Canada and WestJet, slightly more balanced than the industry average of 95 per cent — and women comprise between 70 and 80 per cent of the country’s 15,000 flight attendants, according to the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

“When there’s a hierarchy like that, it creates a power dynamic, and some people will take advantage of it,” said flight attendant Florence LePage, citing sexist humour as one of the softer manifestations.

On a flight between Yellowknife and Whitehorse this year, a pilot phoned her from the cockpit to ask, “‘What is the difference between a chickpea and a lentil?’ Then he said, ‘The difference is that I would not pay to have a lentil pee on my face,’” recalled LePage, who is in her 20s and works at a major Canadian airline.

Other flight attendants pointed to incidents of pornography on the flight deck and unwanted advances after touchdown.

“I was warned constantly about midnight knockers,” said one flight attendant who has worked at WestJet for more than 15 years and wished to remain anonymous for fears about job security.

She alleges she was at a bar on a layover in Moncton soon after joining the company and the pilot, who had consumed several margaritas, started to stroke her.

“I just remember the feeling of the back of his hand on my upper arm…and of course it was unwelcome. So I said, ‘OK, I’ve got to go.’ And as I’m on my way out, the first officer does the same dang thing.”

The pilot insisted on walking her back to the hotel, which was across the street. In the elevator, she said he snapped the room key from her hand. She said she managed to retrieve it and waited for him to pass by before stepping into her room, which was adjacent to his. “I dead-bolted my door and I thought, ‘Thank God that’s over.’”

Then the phone rang. “He said, ‘Hi, it’s me.’ And I said, ‘What do you want?’ And he said, ‘I just wanted to make sure you made it to your room okay.’” She hung up.

“I was absolutely terrified.”

An undercurrent of in-flight flirtation can blend easily into romantic encounters during trips of up to four days spent with the same colleagues in far-flung climes. But the dynamic can also spill over into unsolicited, sexually aggressive behaviour from male colleagues and passengers, said Jocelyn Frye, a senior fellow at the Centre for American Progress who focuses on women’s rights and economic security.

“They’re away from family, they don’t have those constraints, nobody’s around…they can do sort of crazy things and they think there’s no consequence,” Frye said.

“That can create more vulnerability and more potential for harm for people on the receiving end of those comments or that conduct.”

Expectations can also become internalized, with employees labelling less party-inclined colleagues as “slam-clickers.”

“It means that if you go to your hotel room and you slam your door and you click it locked, you don’t hang out and you’re antisocial,” said Mandalena Lewis. “I’ve been called a slam-clicker.”

WestJet said in an email it treats harassment seriously and is “committed to providing and ensuring a safe and harassment-free environment for WestJetters and guests.”

The company highlighted an anonymous whistleblower hotline and safety reporting system, and said its “respect-in-the-workplace policies” are clearly outlined, in addition to mandatory annual training.

Air Canada, meanwhile, said it has “zero tolerance for harassment, discrimination or violence in the workplace.”

“Employee safety and well-being is one of our cornerstone values which we will not compromise,” the company said in an email.

The stalwart statements come as cold comfort to Lewis.

“‘Be a dutiful daughter. Don’t be a problem employee,’” she said, mimicking their stance.

“It’s a #MeToo dumpster fire…and it’s exhausting for survivors.”

Companies in this story: (TSX:WJA, TSX:AC)

Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press

Unacceptable workplace behaviors’ at UNICEF, leaked report summary says

July 8th, 2019 Respect in the Workplace



UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. Children’s Fund’s workplace is not living up to the organization’s values of empowering children and families, according to UNICEF’s internal summary of a forthcoming independent task force report.

“While the draft ITF [independent task force] report found that there was a high level of pride among UNICEF staff in working for the organization, it also revealed that there is an environment of ‘results at all costs’ where staff feel that offenses go unpunished,” Charlotte Petri Gornitzka, deputy executive director of partnerships at UNICEF, wrote in a May 27 letter sent to staff along with the internal summary, both of which were obtained by Devex.

“The Task Force finds that there are groups of staff who still feel strongly that they are victims of an ‘us and them’ culture.”

— UNICEF internal summary of the draft report

“The draft report states that dysfunctional support from systems designed to provide checks and balances on the exercise of authority has led to increased stress, frustration among staff, resulting in worrying low-levels of trust in management,” the letter continues. MORE


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