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City of London Receives Third Party Report on Harassment and Discrimination in the Workplace

The City of London shared the findings of a third party review that was launched to assess policies and practices related to harassment and discrimination in the workplace. This work, led by Rubin Thomlinson LLP,  began in the spring of 2018, and included two key areas of focus – conducting a third party intake of complaints and, where appropriate investigations, and conducting an independent assessment of the City’s programs and practices related to workplace harassment and discrimination.

“From the beginning of this work, we’ve been clear that if one person was feeling fearful about reporting their experiences with bullying or harassment, it was one too many,” says Martin Hayward, City Manager. “While the report does indicate some improvements have been made, it also highlights ways that we can continue to do better in our efforts to provide a workplace that is free of fear from harassment or retaliation.”

The assessment included a review of the City’s culture, practices, policies and procedures with a goal of identifying any systemic issues or gaps that existed. A survey was sent to the close to 3,800 employees with almost 780 responses provided by existing and former employees. Based on the report, Rubin Thomlinson LLP also conducted a number of interviews with individuals based on their survey responses and whether individuals expressed interest in participating in an interview. As well, interviews took place with people in leadership roles in the City or the community, and with people within the organization with responsibility for implementing the City’s related policies.

“It was important to us that this process was thorough,” says Hayward. “People were invited to speak to the topics that were of most concern to them. Whether it was harassment and discrimination, their experiences and comfort level with our complaint process or the training they received related to these policies, we wanted to know where our employees felt there were challenges that we needed to address. The result and findings discussed in the report provide an opportunity for us to better understand the experiences of some of our employees, and to learn from their feedback and input.”

The report to the Corporate Services Committee identifies seven specific objectives for the City:

  • Improve employee understanding of the complaint resolution options
  • Clarify roles and duties within the internal complaint process
  • Improve employee trust of the internal complaint process
  • Improve employee satisfaction with the internal complaint process
  • Enhance the skills of managers to perform their roles in addressing complaints
  • Address employee fear of reprisal for raising complaints in the workplace
  • Create accountability for actions taken in response to internal complaints

The report also includes a number of recommendations that will support the City in its efforts to create a workplace that is free of harassment and discrimination. These include the following:

  • Immediately begin development of a single Respectful Workplace Policy and associated procedures
  • Improve the competencies of managers so they are prepared to deal with behaviours that conflict with the policies
  • Improve timeliness
  • Improve communication and accountability
  • Address fear of reprisal
  • Improve transparency
  • Establish an Ombudsperson to assist employees and advocate for fair and transparent processes

“Our commitment moving forward is to act on the recommendations,” says Bill Coxhead, Managing Director, Corporate Services and Chief Human Resources Officer. “Work to establish the Respectful Workplace Policy will begin immediately and in the next three months, we will have an action plan to implement all of the recommendations.”

The full report is on the agenda for the Corporate Services Committee meeting on March 19.