Closed-door meeting to discuss HSR sexual harassment
City council is meeting behind closed doors to discuss how to change the misogynist culture of its transit system after a damning sexual harassment complaint last year.
City manager Chris Murray will meet with councillors in a private session Wednesday evening to discuss the aftermath of an incident where a former HSR supervisor sexually harassed a female staff member for years.
The labour relations adjudicator found that not only was the woman harassed via methods that included lewd emails and unwanted touching, but that the supervisor who did it received a six-figure severance. The city also did too little to help the woman, the decision said, failing to take “even the most basic substantive measures to protect her.”
The supervisor, Bill Richardson, also received complimentary references from senior transit officials, which helped him get a job with Guelph Transit. Guelph terminated his employment when it learned of the complaint. Murray vowed then to investigate the references.
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Murray’s report to council will talk about some “short-term and long-term” actions the city has taken in the aftermath of the incident, including how to “tackle some of the culture issues,” spokesperson Mike Kirkopoulos said.
Murray will also propose some possible changes. He’ll meet with media after the meeting to give the public more information, Kirkopoulos said.
“There’s an expectation from the public and from council,” he said.
Eric Tuck, vice-president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 107 says he wants to see the senior staff who gave Richardson glowing references held accountable.
"Obviously, in order to change the culture, we need change at the top," he said.
In the 2013 decision, an arbitrator awarded a female inspector $25,000 for sexual harassment, referencing a “poisoned” culture where sexist comments were acceptable, and where for years, only one female was promoted to inspector.
Don Hull, HSR director, acknowledged then that he should have recognized the severity.
“I should have taken it more seriously from day one,” he said.
CBC Hamilton reporter Samantha Craggs will tweet live from Wednesday’s council meeting. Follow her at @SamCraggsCBC or in the window below.