Ridout Barron


Calgary Real Estate, Wills and Estates, and Business Law Blog

Canadian spy network accused of discrimination

A landmark discrimination case is unfolding on the federal level of the Canadian court system, according to recent reports. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service, better known to Alberta residents as CSIS, is the subject of a $35 million lawsuit that alleges a culture of discrimination and harassment against visible minorities. The case is still under review at this time, but the suit is getting considerable media attention. 

Five individuals who work for CSIS are at the heart of the lawsuit. Of the five, three are Muslim, one is black and one identifies as gay. None of these individuals, nor any of the individuals named as defendants in the suit, can be named publicly without risking exposing their identities to the larger intelligence community. However, the details of the alleged actions taken by employees and management at CSIS are under no such blackouts. 

Sexual harassment allegations leveled at Tesla

It is an unfortunate reality that hostile, damaging work environments still exist in the Canadian business landscape, not to mention elsewhere in the world. However, when large companies are accused of facilitating sexual harassment in their workplaces, it calls to attention just how much work remains to be done to right these wrongs. Calgary residents may already have heard of one such prominent case, involving tech giant Tesla. 

The company is already in the media spotlight as it prepares to launch its latest electric car, the product for which the company is best known. But founder Elon Musk has not commented publicly on allegations that were brought forward at a company town hall held on International Women's Day. Several women spoke out about the inappropriate treatment they had endured, they said, for years at Tesla's offices and factory locations. 

The cost of workplace harassment

Sadly, workplace harassment is a problem all over Canada. From the smallest business to the halls of government, Calgary residents are keenly aware that harassment can take place in any employment situation. However, the cost of running a hostile work environment can be steep even for those employers most resistant to change. 

The potential liability associated with a harassment lawsuit can be incredibly damaging to an employer. In a wrongful dismissal claim, a settlement of a claim is often determined by taking into consideration an employee's age, position within the company and tenure. A workplace harassment lawsuit, which is overseen by a human rights tribunal, rarely takes these factors into consideration. Instead, compensation is awarded based on wages lost as a direct result of the harassment. In some cases, particularly in incidents of sexual harassment, these wages can be considerable. 

Former senator investigated for harassment

An inquiry into a former senator accused of harassing his employees should continue, according to the Senate ethics committee. Calgary residents may be familiar with the ongoing story of Don Meredith, a former Canadian senator who has been accused of sexual harassment during his tenure on the senate. Despite his resignation from the position, government authorities believe he should still be investigated just as though he was still a government employee in the interest of fairness to his alleged victim. 

The probe began some two years ago when Meredith was still a senator, after he was accused of carrying on a relationship with an underage girl. The probe uncovered a wealth of alleged inappropriate activity, including harassment and bullying of his staff. Meredith resigned his seat on the senate back in April, and as a result, some of the inquiry was dropped. 

New app allows victims to report harassment

Hostile workplaces are tragically common across Canada. Calgary residents may have had experience with workplace harassment in their own jobs, or likely know someone who has. Often, these incidents go unreported, usually because people fear reprisal for coming forward. Now, an American company is offering an alternative: an app that allows victims to anonymously report harassment in the workplace. 

The genesis of the idea came from the high-profile media attention focused on the Upright Citizen's Brigade comedy theater and school, which became a hotbed of controversy after a host was fired for allegedly raping several women. After the debacle, UCB instituted a hotline for people to call if they are being harassed, but it has not received much in the way of use. Many people fear being identified as a "trouble maker" and not having their concerns addressed. 

20 Uber drivers fired after harassment probe

Popular ride-sharing company Uber has been the subject of scrutiny in the media almost ever since it opened its doors. Now, an increase of complaints against the company by its drivers has prompted an inquest into the company's policies when it comes to dealing with workplace harassment. Calgary residents may be interested to know that the company has taken action, firing some 20 employees in Detroit. 

The details of the probe have not been made public at this time, but it is confirmed that Uber Technologies, Inc. retained an independent law firm to investigate claims made by employees, largely drivers, against lower to middle-management authority figures. Their retention was prompted by a blog post written by a former engineer with Uber who claimed that she was the victim of sexual harassment. She said that beginning on her first day at work, her immediate supervisor began propositioning her with unwanted advances via text messages. 

Handling harassment in the workplace

Incidences of inappropriate behaviour in workplaces have been prominent in the news of late. Most notably, Calgary residents might have heard about FOX's Bill O'Reilly being fired for alleged harassment. This brings into stark relief the issue of workplace harassment even north of the border, where it is still a major problem in Alberta businesses. Generally speaking, it is the responsibility of an employer to ensure a safe and secure workplace for all employees.

The most important thing for employers to remember is that, just because harassment is not being reported in their workplaces does not mean it is not happening. A recent Canadian poll suggested that some 25 percent of employees reported having experienced some form of harassment, including unwelcome sexual advances, in their workplaces. The fact is that employees, especially women, often feel uncomfortable coming forward and making a report out of fear of reprisal.

Is moonlighting ground or employment termination?

Any one of many circumstances can cause financial hardship that might force Alberta residents to seek additional incomes. Those who are fortunate enough to secure a second job may resolve their economic issues. However, in some cases, employers do not approve of employees moonlighting with other companies. Does that give them grounds to consider an employee's termination?

This will depend on different factors. If an employee's work performance is adversely affected by the second job, the employer will have reason to disapprove. He or she will be entitled to issue a warning if that employee is late, tired or absent on a regular basis. A warning will give the worker the chance to improve his or her productivity, which might prevent termination.

Tech comapny sued for harassment

An American startup company is facing serious allegations from a former employee over sexually charged and harassing behaviour in the workplace. UploadVR, based in California, has come under fire after their former director of social media launched a lawsuit against them for the harassment she says she and other female employees suffered during their tenure with the company. Workplace harassment is hardly an American issue, as many Calgary residents have endured similar treatment in Canadian workplaces. 

According to the lawsuit, the company's two male founders have strove to create an environment that catered to men in the company's two offices in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Company parties were allegedly rife with locker-room talk in which male employees and the co-founders would graphically discuss sexual topics, often related to female employees. Women in the workplace were singled out as only distracting male employees, who expressed inappropriate and unwanted sexual interest in them. 

Civilian governance suggested to combat discrimination

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have been under considerable fire for some time following recent inquests regarding unacceptable workplace behaviour. Both here in Calgary and across the nation, the RCMP has been accused of turning a blind eye to discrimination and harassment in its ranks. Now, a federal watchdog is suggesting that civilian governance be brought in to combat this behaviour. 

The Chair for the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP has gone on record expressing shock and disgust at the findings of recent surveys, which suggest bullying and discrimination are at an all-time high within the organization. So much so, he says, that it directly influences the organization's ability to police the nation. He also suggested that many of the understaffing issues faced by the RCMP could be directly traced to a bad reputation brought on by this behaviour. 


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