File photo by Alec Ross,

City Hall gets harassment policy recommendations

A nearly year-long third-party review of London city hall’s harassment policies has come back with eight recommendations aimed at ending workplace bullying.

Rubin Thomlinson LLP, a Toronto-based law firm, was tapped last spring to investigate the city’s harassment policies and procedures, following numerous complaints of harassment, abuse, and retaliation. The bulk of the complaints were from members of the London Fire Department.

As part of the review, Rubin Thomlinson assessed the city’s culture, practices, policies, and procedures with a goal of identifying any systemic issues or gaps that existed. Nearly 3,800 current and former employees were sent a survey in relation to the review, with almost 780 responding. Several of those who completed the survey were later interviewed about their responses.

“From the beginning of this work, we’ve been clear that if one person was feeling fearful about reporting their experiences with bullying or harassment, it was one too many,” City Manager Martin Hayward said in a statement. “While the report does indicate some improvements have been made, it also highlights ways that we can continue to do better in our efforts to provide a workplace that is free of fear from harassment or retaliation.”

The recommendations put forward to curb toxic workplace harassment include the establishment of an Ombudsperson to help employees advocate for fair and transparent processes, developing respectful workplace policy and procedures, addressing fear of reprisal, better preparing managers to deal with bad behaviour, and improving communication and accountability.

“Our commitment moving forward is to act on the recommendations,” said Bill Coxhead, the city’s head of human resources. “Work to establish the Respectful Workplace Policy will begin immediately and in the next three months, we will have an action plan to implement all of the recommendations.”

The full report on the review will be presented to the corporate services committee next week.

Ahead of that, Mayor Ed Holder has stressed discrimination and harassment have zero place within the walls of city hall.

“I think anyone that works here should have no less an expectation than to work in an environment that is harassment free and I fully support it,” said Holder. “I think it starts at the top and it has to permeate through the organization. I am confident that will happen.”