Canada Post workers say sexual harassment ignored by management at Edmonton mail plant

Two women who work for Canada Post at the Edmonton mail processing plant say they were sexually harassed by a supervisor, and that management ignored their complaints.

Male supervisor allowed to return to work with female employees who had filed complaints against him

Canada Post employees reveal workplace sexual harassment by managers at Edmonton plant 2:51

At first, Jessica thought her supervisor at Canada Post's Edmonton mail processing plant was trying to be friendly. He frequently complimented her appearance.

Over time, the comments became more and more sexual.

"It became really uncomfortable, and it was sexual harassment towards the end," said the postal worker.

"It made me feel not good enough. It made me feel like a sexual object. I didn't want to go to work."

Jessica says her workplace became unbearable. She filed an official complaint through the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) after her repeated complaints to management went unheeded.

Jessica is one of six female workers who filed complaints through the union in 2017 about the same supervisor.

Four complaints were investigated last March. The investigation found that the women were telling the truth, but that the supervisor's behaviour did not constitute sexual harassment.

Supervisor's behaviour worsened

After that, the supervisor was allowed to return to work with the women who had made the complaints.

His inappropriate behaviour only got worse, Jessica said.

Two new complaints were investigated in December. The second investigation found that the supervisor had engaged in sexual harassment in those cases.

"In March, we had sisters come forward," said Nancy Dodsworth, president of the Edmonton CUPW local.

"Nothing happened. In December, more women were victimized because nothing happened in March."

It is not clear what disciplinary action, if any, was taken against the supervisor.

The Edmonton mail processing plant employs approximately 650 members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers. (Peter Evans/CBC)

Two of the six complainants have shared their stories with CBC News. Both sort letters and packages at the Edmonton mail processing plant at 121st Avenue and 149th Street.

CBC News is calling the women Jessica and Hannah to protect their true identities. Both risk losing their jobs because Canada Post required them to sign confidentiality agreements when the sexual harassment was investigated.

"I can confirm that the complaints were taken seriously, were investigated and action was taken to resolve the issue," Canada Post spokesperson Aurélie Walsh wrote in an emailed statement. 

Walsh said she could not provide further details out of respect for the privacy of the people involved in the investigations.

Escalating behaviour

Jessica and Hannah detailed how their supervisor's behaviour became increasingly inappropriate over time.

"The supervisor would start saying sexual things to me about my body parts, sexual comments about things that he would like to do to me," she said.

Hannah said the supervisor made sexual innuendos and propositioned her for sex. 

She said his comments contributed to a toxic work environment inside the mail plant.

They made me feel bad about bringing it forward, and just swept it under the rug.- Jessica, Canada Post worker

"It's an environment of negativity, hostility," she said. "There is a lot of uncomfortable feelings from staff and how they are treated by supervisors, management."

Both women said they denounced the supervisor's behaviour to management on multiple occasions.

"They made me feel bad about bringing it forward, and just swept it under the rug," Jessica said. "Nothing was done, the behaviour just continued."
The female complainants and the supervisor worked together at the Edmonton mail processing plant. (CBC)

'I was appalled'

Four of the complaints were investigated in March 2017 by a Canada Post human rights officer. Interviews were conducted in person and over the phone by an officer based in Winnipeg. 

The investigator concluded that the women were being truthful and that the supervisor had not followed Canada Post's Code of Conduct, but that the comments did not constitute sexual harassment. 

In three of the four findings, the officer wrote that "the investigation did not find any evidence that shows the conduct was persistent or repetitious or, whether the conduct led to adverse job-related consequences." 

Findings were reported to management. Managers allowed the supervisor to return to work, overseeing the same women who had made the complaints. 

"I was appalled by the fact that they agreed with what occurred, they believed what I was saying, but they opted to keep him employed there," said Hannah. 

Dodsworth, the CUPW local president, was shocked by the decision.

I'm still flabbergasted by it.- Nancy Dodsworth, Edmonton union local president

"It sends the wrong message totally to people that are bullies, abusers and harassers, to return them to the same people that they victimized," Dodsworth said. "That's just not done. I'm still flabbergasted by it."

Jessica said her work environment continued to deteriorate and carried over into her personal life. "It caused a lot of anxiety and stress. I wasn't sleeping at night." 
Nancy Dodsworth, president of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers' Edmonton local, says Canada Post failed to provide a safe workplace. (Trevor Wilson/CBC)

Another round of complaints

In December, two new complaints were filed by female employees. The complaints were investigated by Canada Post's human rights officers. 

This time, the investigators wrote in their findings that the supervisor's behaviour was "repetitious and persistent and unwelcome and sexual in nature."

They concluded that the supervisor "did engage in sexual harassment contrary to the No Discrimination/ No Harassment policy and the code of conduct."

CUPW does not know what disciplinary action was taken against the supervisor in response to the findings.

Hannah and Jessica have not seen him at work since December.

Jessica doesn't think firing the supervisor would be enough to change the culture at the Edmonton mail processing plant. 

She is not convinced that the superiors who dismissed her complaints understand the severity of the harassment and how it affected the women involved.

"I think if management takes this seriously and says, 'Look, I don't want to have harassment in the workplace,' and makes that a priority, it would change," she said. "It all starts with management."

According to Hannah, Canada Post needs to accept responsibility for failing to provide a safe workplace. 

"I believe the entire corporation as a whole needs to have some accountability held on their actions, and just how they conduct their business."

Hope for the future

Jessica and Hannah said sharing their stories about what happened gives them an opportunity to foster positive change.

"I am hoping to change workplace morale and workplace environment," said Jessica. "I want to go to work and not have the anxiety of 'What today?'"

Hannah said Canada Post has the potential to be a great employer, but that the relationship between staff and management has been damaged. 

"There's some trust that's been broken there with most staff, and I think that needs to be repaired."


Excerpt from Canada Post's internal No Discrimination/ No Harassment policy:

Sexual harassment is defined as any comment, gesture, contact or other conduct of a sexual nature that is likely to cause offence or humiliation to an individual, that creates an intimidating, hostile or poisoned work environment, or that might, on reasonable grounds, be perceived by an individual as placing a condition of a sexual nature on employment or the opportunity for training, promotion or work related advantage.

About the Author

Josee St-Onge

Journalist

Josee St-Onge is a journalist with CBC Edmonton. She has also reported in French for Radio-Canada in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Reach her at josee.st-onge@cbc.ca