Sexual harassment victim says faith in truth restored by Sask. labour board decision

A former City of Regina employee says she is relieved by a Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board decision that found the union that was supposed to represent her did, in fact, discriminate against her.

Union discriminated against Regina landfill workers who filed harassment claims, labour board found

A decision from the Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board suggests CUPE Local 21 was more concerned about making sure male workers at Regina's landfill didn't endure discipline for harassment than the fact that three women who worked there had been driven from the workplace. (CBC)

A woman who was part of a sexual harassment complaint against former co-workers at Regina's landfill says she moved to a new town because she couldn't stand the anxiety about running into one of the men who harassed her.

Whenever she saw a City of Regina truck, she wondered who was behind the wheel, she says — and whether it was one of the men who harassed her out of a job.

In an October decision, the Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board found three women who worked at the landfill were discriminated against by their union based on their gender after filing sexual harassment complaints against a group of male co-workers.

The decision suggested the local union was more concerned about making sure the men didn't endure discipline for the harassment, than the fact that the women had been driven from the workplace.

RD, who is being identified only by her initials to protect her identity, was first employed at the City of Regina landfill in May 2011 and left in 2014.

"I was shocked and speechless and I was shaking on the inside with excitement that you could finally see the light at the end of the tunnel," she said of the labour board's decision. 

RD said she had lost faith that things worked out in the favour of people who told the truth.

"With this recent hearing, I kind of believe in that again."

Complaints filed against 5 men in 2014

The three women filed 41 complaints against five male co-workers in accordance with the city's harassment policy at the beginning of 2014.

It wasn't easy to prepare for the labour board hearing, RD said, and it was even harder because she was pregnant. RD had her first baby a week after the hearing.

"Instead of preparing for [the baby] and getting to relax the last month, I was preparing to go to court and testify."

The wait for the decision was long — about 14 months — but worth it, she said.

RD and the other two women — none of whom work at the city landfill anymore — were part of the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 21, the union that represents outside City of Regina workers.

"I just want the union to admit that they were in the wrong," RD said. She said it was horrible to not feel supported by the union meant to represent her.

She wants the union to hire new representatives "that will actually have the best interests of employees in heart."

In an email to CBC, CUPE Local 21 president Tim Anderson said he will not comment on details of the case because the "​matter is still before the labour board and subject to a possible judicial review.​"​

RD said she thinks it would be fair for the men to lose their jobs at the landfill. 

"They get to continue on with their lives like nothing happened. They didn't even get a slap on the wrist."

She said other women at the landfill were treated just like the three complainants were, but were too afraid to stand up for themselves.

On Tuesday, a City of Regina spokesperson said the city would not comment on the specific case because it is a personnel issue. 

Cases not a surprise: Sexual Assault Centre 

What happened to RD and her colleagues is "disappointing, but not all that surprising," said Lisa Miller, the executive director of the Regina Sexual Assault Centre. 

'Women who are harassed really fear coming forward because they tend to be treated like they're oversensitive or a troublemaker,' says Regina Sexual Assault Centre executive director Lisa Miller. (Submitted by Lisa Miller)
Miller said it was nice to see the individuals validated, even though they shouldn't have to be. The growing media attention on sexual harassment and assault can help, she said. 

"It is hopefully, you know, giving women a voice and that they're able to see how much power they have in their voice."

The board's report might allow women to realize they aren't alone on these issues and may encourage women to take a stand against the harassment they face, Miller said, noting she has experienced sexual harassment in the workplace since she was 16. 

She said a workplace can have a culture that permits harassment, and education is the best step to combat that. 

"Women who are harassed really fear coming forward because they tend to be treated like they're oversensitive or a troublemaker." 

With files from Andreanne Apablaza