Half of Hamilton city staffers surveyed feel like they can’t report misconduct at work without fear of retaliation, according to a new report.
A similar number of city employees say that even when employee misconduct is reported, they don't believe their bosses deal with it appropriately.
And a quarter of the employees surveyed say they have been pressured to compromise their ethics and values on the job.
The damning portrait of the city's workplace culture was revealed in reports to councillors Monday.
The reports also show that only 33 to 49 per cent of employees who filled out the city’s latest employee ethics survey felt like they could alert their supervisors about misconduct on the job without worrying about retaliation.
'We aren’t fooling around. This isn’t public relations. This isn’t politics. This is serious.' - Coun. Brad Clark
The survey results come just months after an arbitrator awarded a female HSR inspector known in reports as “AB” $25,000 for sexual harassment that went on for years in her department. The arbitrator’s report referenced a “poisoned” culture where sexist comments were acceptable, and where for years, only one female was promoted to inspector.
At Monday’s audit and finance committee meeting, Coun. Brad Clark said that more has to be done to ensure that city workers know they are protected and can come forward with allegations of misconduct or harassment, sexual or otherwise.
“We need to make it very clear,” Clark said. “We aren’t fooling around. This isn’t public relations. This isn’t politics. This is serious.”
There is no formal ethics-related monitoring and oversight for city staff. Management has oversight and monitoring responsibilities with respect to employees, but ethics is not part of the current employee performance management process, the city report says.
City manager Chris Murray says the city has to get tough on harassment. “It’s just something that needs to happen,” he said. Clark went a step farther, saying that all employees need to know that in cases of harassment, the perpetrator will be fired with cause and without severance.
But that wasn’t the case in the recent HSR case. For years, "AB" was the only female on a team of about 14 inspectors, a role that involves managing the daily traffic flow of the transit agency. There were no women in management roles in the organization of 600 people. That has started to change in the last few months: HSR has hired two female trainers, and two of its seven managers are women.
In a Sept. 18 report from arbitrator Kelly Waddingham, she charges that AB’s manager, Bill Richardson, sent her lewd emails and subjected her to unwanted touching and derogatory insults, including being called an “Irish skank” and the implication that she required hand surgery because “you haven’t had a man in over a year, so you’ve had to look after yourself.”
In her decision, Waddingham wrote that the city “failed to take even the most basic substantive measures to protect her — principally removing Mr. Richardson as her supervisor.”
Richardson was terminated without cause in August 2012 after 24 years with HSR. Waddingham's report said his severance was around $200,000. City manager Chris Murray wouldn't say how much the severance was, but that it was "substantially less than that."
On Monday, members of the audit and finance committee went over two reports on workplace violence, harassment and discrimination policies. They were sent back to staff for further tweaks to ensure that people understand that harassment of any sort won’t be tolerated by the city, Clark said.
“One policy doesn’t work without the other. They need to come together holistically,” Clark said.
“It won’t stop all workplace harassment or violence, but it will do a hell of a long way towards doing that. We’ll never get to zero, but we can go a long way towards reaching that goal.”