Nunavut court registries is a toxic workplace, investigation finds

Nunavut's court services unit is rife with gossip, favouritism, micromanaging, and a lack of leadership and trust, an internal investigation has found.

Court services unit rife with gossip, favouritism, and lack of leadership and trust, report finds

A courtroom in the Nunavut Court of Justice. A recent internal investigation found the court services unit to be a toxic workplace. (Nick Murray/CBC)

Nunavut's court services unit is a toxic workplace, an internal government investigation has found.

An executive summary of the investigation, obtained by CBC News, found "destructive" gossip, favouritism, micromanaging, and a lack of leadership and trust is prevalent within Nunavut's court registries.

"The investigators' conclusion that the Criminal and Civil Registries is a toxic workplace for most of the employees, and on the toxicity scale, it is on the lower end of the 'unhealthy work environment,'" the report reads, adding support and intervention needs to happen at all levels.

The court services registry division is responsible for the staffing and administration of Nunavut courts. It includes court clerks and administrative staff who assist lawyers, the public, police and other court staff.

Nunavut's Justice Department acknowledged the report, which was completed after a two-month investigation from May 1 to June 30, 2017, saying it stemmed from complaints by employees within the court services division.

"There are a number of recommendations that emerged from the investigation," a spokesperson for the department said in an email.

"The Department of Justice is reviewing the recommendations and determining how to implement those recommendations."

The report, titled "Toxic Workplace Environment Investigation," says "the investigators believe that management has failed to act on some complaints, and that many employees have failed to bring them forward properly."

It also said that "mental health concerns" are present at the division.

7 recommendations

The report includes seven recommendations. First, it urges the Criminal and Civil Registries to start working towards a respectful workplace. The report points to implementing the territorial government's code of values and ethics — more specifically, the sections on workplace harassment and workplace conflict management

"The recommendation of the investigators is for all employees to review and sign off that they have read and understood the Code of Values and Ethics," the report said.

It also said that management should be properly trained in dealing with complaints, and employees trained on the proper way to bring complaints forward.

"That all employees and management act in a respectful manner, and bring up issues in a fair and timely manner."

Another recommendation is "rebuilding trust amongst all employees."

"When employees are not trained properly, gossip and favouritism is present and trust levels have been depleted. There is no trust in the registries."

Other recommendations include conflict management coaching, training in performance management and fair management practices, and relying more frequently on the human resources department.

"The management relies on their own decision-making skills when dealing with employee or performance-related issues," the report read.

"Many interviewees stated a desire for management to simply make a decision without other non-interested parties involved, as it was seen as 'intimidating' and 'hopeless' to bring forward issues."

The report found that there is a lack of leadership within the Criminal Registries "as there is little communication or understanding of roles."

The investigators stressed that everyone plays a role in making changes in the division.


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