Politics

Harassment claims against Elizabeth May don't meet Ontario's legal bar, investigator finds

Independent investigation was launched in January after complaints from 3 ex-staffers

June 28, 2018

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May was the subject of workplace harassment complaints from three former employees. An independent investigation has found the incidents do not meet the legal bar under Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

An independent investigation into allegations of workplace harassment by Green Party Leader Elizabeth May accepts the complaints as true, but finds they do not meet the legal bar for harassment under Ontario's Occupational Health and Safety Act.

The full report from Sheila Block, of Torys LLP, which was retained by the Green Party to investigate the complaints, will remain confidential. But an executive summary says that after gathering relevant evidence and considering it in context, the incidents reported do not meet the legal standard that requires that the person engaged "in a course of vexatious comment or conduct against a worker in a workplace that is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome."

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"For the purposes of our analysis, we accepted the complainants' allegations as true. We also accept that the three complainants feel strongly that they were mistreated," the report reads. "However, in our opinion, their allegations, if accepted as true, do not rise to the level of workplace harassment under the Occupational Health and Safety Act."

The investigation was launched after complaints from Rob Rainer, Diana Nunes and Vanessa Brustolin, all former employees of the Green Party of Canada.

Rainer made nine allegations of workplace harassment against May; seven involving incidents with him and two involving others, which were considered by the investigative team in the context of a "tense relationship" between May and the employee. 

"It is clear to us that Mr. Rainer and Ms. May do not like each other, and did not work well together. Ms. May attributes that largely to Mr. Rainer's job performance. Mr. Rainer says it was because he was willing to 'stand up to' Ms. May," the report found. 

'Tense interactions'

Rather than workplace harassment, the incidents appeared to be more like tense interactions between coworkers who did not get along, or situations where Rainer took questions about his job performance personally.

"Because he saw no fault in his performance, he concluded that he was subject to an unjustified personal attack. People can and do have different expectations and views with respect to a person's job performance, but criticisms directed at a person's job performance do not meet the legal standard that is the focus of our investigation," the report concluded.

Nunes had concerns about May's treatment of others and more generally about the administration of the party, but the report concluded they do not constitute workplace harassment.

Brustolin declined to be interviewed by investigators, but after reviewing documentation on the alleged incidents investigators also concluded they don't meet the legal bar for harassment.

A news release from the Green Party said charges against May "were found to be without merit" and that the matter was now closed.

Clarifications

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