Roughly 11 months after being hired to conduct a third-party review of the City of London’s harassment and discrimination policies, Rubin Thomlinson LLP has released a damning report.
A survey was sent to nearly 3,800 current and former employees of the city, and 779 responses were received.
According to the report, 383 respondents, or 49 per cent, said they had experienced harassment, discrimination, bullying, intimidation and/or reprisal in the workplace.
Over 50 employees said they experienced intimidation, with six to 15 respondents to the survey saying they were threatened with termination over disagreements or conflicts with their superiors.
“On first review, I’m not surprised,” Bill Coxhead, the city’s chief HR officer, told 980 CFPL.
“Some of the things that we learned in that report we were aware of and were experiencing, but we wanted to really understand what people were thinking and feeling through the process.”
Over 30 people provided examples of instances in which managers exercised inappropriate authority, including favouritism, micromanagement, inconsistency and targeting.
More than 15 people described the complaint process itself as the situation in which they experienced harassment, discrimination, bullying, intimidation or reprisal. One person described an interview that felt like an “attack” while another described the formal investigation process as “exhausting.” Still another person said they reported “appalling” verbal harassment to their manager and HR but, as far as they know, nothing came of it.
“I would agree with them on many cases. Having been in this role for a year and a half, I can see that the complaint process is cumbersome,” said Coxhead.
“It takes too long, it’s confusing for some folks, and our policies are written in such a way as makes that difficult to navigate.”
When asked if they would feel comfortable raising a complaint under the city’s current process, 24 per cent said not at all, 18 per cent said slightly, 28 per cent said moderately, 22 per cent said very and six per cent said extremely.
While fear of reprisal was repeatedly mentioned, several employees reported actual experiences of reprisal, including cases of people being subjected to “organized and long-term campaigns of reprisal.”
Several people, however, noted that the situation had improved under current leadership.
“I’m pleased for that. I think there’s been a number of changes in the organization to set the table for improvements in this area,” said Coxhead.
The report makes eight recommendations aimed at simplifying policies, clarifying roles, increasing transparency and improving timelines.
“The top priority is developing new respect in the workplace policy, and we’re going to start that work immediately and then we’re going to work through all the items on their list,” Coxhead told 980 CFPL.
“We want to make the changes, and I’m excited about the opportunity to make respectful workplaces a norm all the way through our organization.”
The report from Rubin Thomlinson LLP will be presented at next week’s corporate services committee meeting.