Sunday, January 11, 2009

A few more questions arising out of the Brazeau allegations

1. Who hired the outside firm to conduct the investigation into the sexual harassment allegations? A Globe account was ambiguous:
Mr. Brazeau and a majority of the congress board said this week that they hired an outside mediation firm to investigate the original complaint...
It should have been the board itself retaining the firm without any involvement by management, particularly if a member of management was the subject of allegations. If the board retained the outside firm, then why was the report not made available to the board? The actions of an organization's chief executive, here the national chief, can be a reputation risk to the organization. Why was the board, or at least a committee of the board, not permitted to see a report on the the national chief's conduct as a result of serious allegations so that they could verify for themselves what the risk to the organization was? Particularly where a summary report indicated that despite there being no breach of the CAP sexual harassment policy, there was "inappropriate behaviour" found. The privacy concerns that have been cited should have been able to be managed by a confidential board process. The fact that the complainant has gone on to pursue the claim at the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal should raise questions for the board over its internally managed process.

2. Why is there a minimal sexual harassment policy at CAP that is wholly inadequate? It fails to articulate what sexual harassment even means:
"Harassment constitutes a disciplinary infraction and will not be tolerated by the (congress). This 'zero tolerance' policy on harassment shall apply to (congress) employees, members of the executive and members of the board."
How can this vague policy be enforced by CAP? Here's an example of a more comprehensive policy on the issue to underscore how deficient CAP's really is:
Sexual and Discriminatory Harassment

The Company will not tolerate harassment based on any Protected Characteristic, and will take appropriate measures to prevent and stop any such harassment.

Harassment is broadly defined as any conduct, whether verbal or physical, that denigrates, insults, or offends a person or group on the basis of a Protected Characteristic where:
(1) submission to such conduct is made an explicit or implicit term or condition of employment;
(2) submission to or rejection of such conduct is used as a basis for any employment decision; or
(3) such conduct has the purpose or effect of interfering with an employee’s work performance or creating an intimidating, offensive or hostile working environment.

1. Sexual Harassment. Sexual harassment in violation of this policy includes, but is not limited to:

  • Sexually suggestive or vulgar comments or jokes; inappropriate comments about another person’s sexual behavior or body; or insulting or ridiculing an employee because of his or her gender.
  • Improper or intrusive questions or comments about an employee’s romantic or sexual experiences or preferences; or unwelcome or offensive sexual flirtations, propositions, advances, or requests.
  • Using, displaying or communicating sexually suggestive or offensive words, objects, pictures, calendars, cartoons, articles, letters, e-mail messages, computer programs or Internet sites.
  • Making or threatening undesired physical conduct (such as touching, embracing, or pinching) or impeding another’s movements in a deliberate manner.
  • Offering or providing employment benefits in return for sexual favors; or taking or threatening to take adverse action against an employee because the employee rejects requests for sexual favors.
2. Discriminatory Harassment: Discriminatory harassment in violation of this policy includes, but is not limited to:
  • Comments or jokes that denigrate, insult, offend, or ridicule based on a Protected Characteristic.
  • Creating a hostile work environment or otherwise singling out an individual for abusive conduct based on the that individual’s Protected Characteristics.
  • Using, displaying or communicating words, objects, pictures, calendars, cartoons, articles, letters, e-mail messages, computer programs or Internet sites that denigrate, insult, offend or ridicule based on a Protected Characteristic.
3. Retaliation
The Company will not tolerate retaliation against any employee who seeks to enforce his or her right to work in an environment free of unlawful discrimination or harassment or who makes a good faith report under the Ethics Hotline/Whistleblower Program or Internal Complaint Procedure. Any employee who is aware of any conduct that may violate this policy should promptly report the conduct using the Ethics Hotline/Whistleblower Program or the Internal Complaint Procedure.
3. Is there an independent whistleblowing mechanism within CAP that would enable employees who are subjected to harassment to trigger a process that is independent and not reliant upon those against whom allegations are made to invoke a response? For example, is there a pipeline to the board of CAP, an audit committee, for example, who could hear such complaints about this or other conduct?

A lot of these questions might seem too inside-baseball kind of stuff, but you can see where the consequences of action or inaction can lead you. The front page of the Globe and Mail.

Here's an editorial that gets it, from the Kingston-Whig Standard:
...revelations since the announcement make Brazeau's appointment impossible at this time.

This week, it was revealed that Brazeau is the subject of a sexual harassment complaint before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.

He was also investigated last year following an internal complaint by a female staff member at the aboriginal peoples congress.

Brazeau says the internal investigation at the congress cleared him of any wrongdoing. That may be so, though at least one member of the organization's board of directors disagrees with that assessment.

The case before the rights tribunal is a matter of even greater concern. Until it is resolved, too thick a haze of uncertainty hangs over Brazeau's appointment. His suitability for the Senate must be established before he enters the chamber, and that means waiting for the tribunal results.

Harper must suspend Brazeau's Senate posting at least until Brazeau is found not guilty of the serious allegations against him.