Province finishes review of 'extremely concerning' allegations by Calgary Drop-In Centre staff
Government says it is satisfied with leadership change, new programs to protect staff
The provincial government's review of allegations of workplace bullying and harassment at Calgary's largest homeless shelter has wrapped up, with the government saying it is satisfied with the steps the Drop-In centre is taking to better protect the "health, safety and security" of its employees.
"The allegations of harassment at the Calgary Drop-In Centre (CDIC) are extremely concerning and that is why we launched a review of this situation," Community and Social Services spokesperson Samantha Power wrote in an email to CBC News.
- Threats, bullying, harassment: Former staff at Calgary Drop-In Centre describe 'toxic' workplace
- Calgary Drop-In Centre's executive director quits amid allegations of workplace harassment at shelter
The province is a major funder of the centre, contributing $13.3 million last year.
"We found that the CDIC has recently implemented new policies and procedures to support the health, safety and security of staff and improve workplace culture," Power said.
She said recent changes in the staff and board level leadership are an "encouraging development."
Power said the ministry's review found the Drop-In centre has:
- Implemented new staff training procedures related to harassment awareness and prevention.
- Created a new workplace fairness ombudsman as a resource for staff who have concerns.
- Updated policy to more clearly define scope of harassment, sexual harassment and bullying, and expanded code of conduct guidelines.
The chair of the Drop-In Centre's board of directors says he believes the shelter is a safer place to work.
"I believe we have been making positive changes for a number of years," said Ken Uzeloc.
"As bad as it is, allegations or incidents help make you better because they make you take a good look and make you rethink how you're doing things. I think we have been getting better," he said.
Uzeloc expects new members to join the board following next week's annual general meeting. He says the findings of a workplace culture review are expected in coming weeks.
The woman who first raised concerns about bullying and harassment at the centre, says she's happy with the review, which prompted many of the changes at the shelter.
'A total step forward'
"The outcome is so positive in the sense that the DI is a safer workplace," Stephanie Raynor-Hohol said.
Raynor-Hohol says she doesn't regret her decision to speak publicly about what happened there.
"It's a total step forward, it's part of that #metoo movement, is not just the story, it's what is the accountability afterwards and I would say that I'm very happy with what so far the accountability has been, but it shouldn't have to get to this point where people are hurt, and then accountability happens," she said.
Raynor-Hohol was hired in the fall of 2016 as a co-director of fund development and government relations. She was on stress leave four months later following two separate alleged encounters with former director Steve Baldwin.
She says she was yelled at and sworn at and had her arm grabbed during one of the encounters. She says during another incident she was slapped on the buttocks.
Baldwin has always denied the allegations.
"This type of communication from the government makes it worthwhile with coming forward on something that was so personal, that happened to me and had a long effect with my family. I will struggle on and off throughout my life because of the PTSD."
Province will continue to monitor centre
Power says new provincial occupational health and safety rules that came into effect this month require any employer in Alberta to investigate complaints of violence or harassment.
The new rules also state "if a worker is disciplined for bringing harassment or violence issues forward, the worker may appeal the disciplinary action to OHS and an officer will investigate," Power said.
The city of Calgary, which contributes approximately $500,000 a year to the shelter, launched a similar review and found it too was satisfied the DI is moving ahead with new policies to protect its employees.
The province says it will continue to monitor the centre for compliance. And that's what Raynor-Hohol hopes to see.
"I'm going to hold, personally as a taxpayer, the city and the province accountable that they do continue to work with them and they do continue to ensure that it is a safe workplace," she said.
Bryan Labby is an enterprise reporter with CBC Calgary. If you have a good story idea or tip, you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @CBCBryan.