Nearly one in three federal public servants report they have been harassed at work over the past two years and in at least one government agency that level stands at more than 50 per cent, an analysis by i Politics reveals.
The analysis of the latest Public Service Employee Survey, conducted in 2011, found that 51 per cent of employees at Indian Oil and Gas Canada said they had experienced harassment on the job — 53 per cent of women and 40 per cent of men. That was a sharp increase from the already high level of 44 per cent reported in the last survey in 2008.
The agency, set up in 1987 as a special agency within then Indian and Northern Affairs to manage and regulate oil and gas resources on First Nations lands, edged out Correctional Service of Canada for the highest level of harassment reported by employees. The survey found 42 per cent of Correctional Services employees reported they were harassed — 44 per cent of women and 39 per cent of men.
At the other end of the spectrum the Supreme Court of Canada had the best track record on harassment in the entire government, with only 13 per cent of employees reporting they had been harassed. That was slightly better than the 17 per cent registered by employees at the Canadian Human Rights Commission which is responsible for investigating complaints of harassment.
The analysis by iPolitics comes as the Status of Women committee began hearings yesterday into the question of sexual harassment among public servants — hearings sparked by high-profile reports of sexual harassment of female officers in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Ross MacLeod, assistant deputy minister for governance planning and policy sector with Treasury Board, said the Public Service Employee Survey found “public servants continue to signal a high incidence of perceived harassment,” with 29 per cent of 201,430 respondents saying they believed they had experienced workplace harassment within the last two years.
However, MacLeod said few employees file formal complaints or grievances. Between November 2009 and October 2010, the government’s 40 largest departments reported a total of 314 complaints or grievances for one form of harassment or another. Of that number, 77 were determined by managers to be founded, MacLeod told MPs.
MacLeod called the results of the survey “disturbing.”
“In contrast to what we know about reported cases, if more than a quarter of the public service is identifying that they feel they have been harassed then there is a disconnect there and we need to get to the root of it.”
MacLeod said a new policy and a new directive, drafted with input from public sector unions, took effect Oct. 1. MacLeod said the new directive will give deputy heads of departments more flexibility to deal with harassment, adapt the policy to their workplaces and resolve problems faster.
Under questioning by Conservative MP Terence Young, MacLeod admitted that the harassment reported by employees was not necessarily sexual and could fall into one of 11 types of harassment. MacLeod said the Treasury Board is hoping the next survey, scheduled for 2014, will take a closer look at sexual harassment.
David Langtry, acting chief commissioner for the Canadian Human Rights Commission, told MPs that sexual harassment in the workplace is under-reported. Langtry said 3 per cent of the complaints it receives from federal public servants relate to sexual harassment, with that number rising to 7 per cent of complaints from members of the RCMP and 8 per cent of complaints from members of the military.
Langtry stressed the need to change the cultures within some organizations, particularly male-dominated hierarchical workplaces, pointing out that once harassment occurs, the damage is done.
While allegations of sexual harassment in the RCMP sparked the committee hearings, when it came to overall harassment, the RCMP barely made it into the top-10 list.
The survey found that 31 per cent of those employed by the RCMP reported they had been harassed, with the level dropping to 26 per cent among men and rising to 33 per cent of women.
By comparison, the survey found 35 per cent of employees at Aboriginal Affairs reported harassment — 39 per cent of women and 28 per cent of men. The Canada Border Services Agency was also higher, with 29 per cent of men and 38 per cent of women reporting harassment for an average of 34 per cent.
At the Canada School of Public Service, which MPs were told teaches courses on how to prevent harassment in the public service, 31 per cent of its own employees reported having been harassed. Once again the level for women, 33 per cent, was higher than the 24 per cent of men.
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission had the biggest gap between the level of harassment reported by men and by women. While only 18 per cent of men reported experiencing harassment, that rose to 36 per cent among women – the fifth-highest among women.
In the vast majority of departments and agencies, the level of harassment reported was higher among women than among men. In five cases, however, the level of reported harassment was higher among men – the Commissioner of Official Languages office, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre (FINTRAC), Western Economic Diversification and the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec.