RCMP lawsuit that alleged sexist, racist workplace settled

RCMP lawsuit that alleged sexist, racist workplace settled

The RCMP officer who has settled her claim says she is now able to move forward in a better work environment. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

There has been a settlement in the case of a Vancouver Island RCMP officer who alleged a supervisor made derogatory comments against women and First Nations people.

Labour Rights Law Office represented Cpl. Swann, but we are not at liberty to discuss the terms of the settlement.

The statement of claim filed in August 2017 named several supervisors, including the former commanding officer of British Columbia’s E-Division, claiming they did nothing to stop the harassment.

Cpl. Jill Swann said she could not reveal the terms of the settlement because she signed a non-disclosure agreement.

In a phone interview this week, she said she was relieved it’s behind her.

“You’re just happy it’s been resolved, that you can close the door on it and move forward,”  Swann said.

“And that’s what I want to do.”

She confirmed that the case was resolved at the end of July, almost a year after it was filed in B.C. Supreme Court.

‘There’s great people’

Swann, a  22-year RCMP veteran who had been off work for seven months in 2015 because of the harassment she faced, said she loved her work.

“It’s a great job and there’s great people,” Swann said, adding that there are new supervisors and management who “get it.”

“We have a process in place in the organization and when it works, it works very well. It’s just everybody has to know what the process is,” she said.

However, like many RCMP members who have spoken out about harassment or taken court action, Swann says she is still contacted by women who have had bad experiences seeking help and insight.

Swann’s suit claimed her immediate boss, Cpl. Roger Collin, called her names like “meth face” after she had some facial surgery, and “Big Red Machine” referring to her hair and weight gain.

Swann also claimed he often made derogatory comments about Indigenous people. Her husband — also an officer with the RCMP —  and children are Métis.

And she alleged Collin sent her a box of condoms in a bouquet of flowers when she gave birth to her youngest child, and also drew a bull’s-eye target symbol on her soft body armour along with some derogatory names.

The suit alleged that the RCMP “failed to provide … Swann with a safe workplace, free from all forms of harassment and intimidation,” contrary to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canada Labour Code, the Canadian Human Rights Act and the RCMP’s own rules.

Contacted by CBC News, now retired Cpl. Roger Collin said he had no information and nothing to say but his signature is on the settlement document filed this week.

The RCMP also declined comment.

In an email, E-Division spokesperson Staff Sgt. Annie Linteau wrote:  “We were advised by legal that a Consent Dismissal Order was entered and approved by the Court on September 18, 2018. We have no additional information that we can provide.”

 

Choosing an Employment Lawyer

Choosing an Employment Lawyer

Employees and employers alike sometimes require the services of an employment lawyer.  Whether you are negotiating an employment contract, dealing with the difficult circumstances around a possible wrongful dismissal, or even managing the nuances of a human rights complaint, employment lawyers offer a breadth of expertise that may effectively serve employees as well as employers.  Indeed, just as there are a wide variety of services provided by employment lawyers, there are a wide variety of individuals from a wide range of sectors who seek these services.  So, how do you ensure that you are choosing the right employment lawyer?

Whether you are a freelancer, contractor, entrepreneur, employee, or business owner, the process of selecting an employment lawyer will generally follow similar stages.  First, you want to identify potential employment lawyers and set up an initial meeting.  But then, even finding lawyers can be a trick – you can search online or ask friends, family, and colleagues.  Ideally, you want to gather some information about the services the employment lawyer provides, and the quality of that service and then narrow your search to your top candidates.

After identifying your preferred candidates, you’ll arrange an initial consultation to discuss your concerns and the lawyer’s expertise and past experience.  Always make sure to meet with the lawyer who will ultimately take on your case.  During this initial meeting, you can get a sense of the employment lawyer’s professionalism and communication style to determine if it’s a good fit for you.  Additionally, you should ask about the cost of services, the lawyer’s opinion about the likely outcome and action plans, as well as potential timelines for your case.

You may also want to ask for references from your employment lawyer.  They may be able to offer testimonials or even put you in touch with previous clients who would be willing to speak to their experience with that lawyer.  However, given confidentiality rules, you may not always be able to get in touch with past clients, which is why it is always advisable to seek recommendations from friends and colleagues first.

Next, you want to get a better sense of the lawyer’s experience.  You can ask about how long they have been practicing employment law and the kinds of cases they have handled in the past.  Even ask the employment lawyer about their rate of success.  Speaking again about lawyer’s fees, you can also get more information about how you will need to pay the fees (up-front, at the end of service, or monthly bills, for example).

Finally, consider logistical factors such as the lawyer’s location and the size of their firm.  Ideally, you want to work with a lawyer that is local and accessible to you.  And while you may have preferences between working with a large firm with extensive expertise, smaller and medium-sized firms often develop closer relationships with their clients.

The Difference between a Union and Non-Union Workplace

The Difference between a Union and Non-Union WorkplaceIf you’ve never worked in a union environment, you may not know the difference between a union and a non-union workplace.  Some of the nuances that distinguish union from non-union workplaces are quite complex, the reality of the difference comes down to who defines the work culture.  In a non-union work environment, the employer holds the majority of power.  This means the employer determines work expectations, sets wages, determines work schedules, and maintains independence over discipline, promotions, and other aspects of work culture.  On the other hand, in a union environment, employees have more control.  Through their union, employees can negotiate workplace contracts that include details about work expectations, wages, schedules, discipline, promotions, etc.  But, what else do you need to know about union and non-union environments?

Let’s start by discussing some of the pros and cons of working in a union environment.  Wages, benefits, security, and support are some of the reasons employees prefer a union environment.  Some estimates indicate union workers earn on average $200 more per week than non-union employees.  Additionally, union workers tend to receive medical benefits more often than non-union counterparts.  More than 90% of union workers are entitled to medical benefits compared to less than 70% of non-union workers.  Moreover, union employees’ spouses or domestic partners are more often included in this benefit coverage compared to non-union employees.

Another benefit of working in a union environment is job security.  In a union environment, the only way an employee can be dismissed is for just cause – this means they must exhibit serious misconduct (e.g. theft from the employer) to be fired.  Additionally, the support union employees receive from their peers allows for collective action if a worker feels they are being treated unfairly.  Sometimes, tare even rules in union workplaces to protect more senior staff from being overlooked for a promotion or a transfer to a new position.

Of course, there are some drawbacks to working in a union environment.  For example, all union members are expected to pay union dues which can cost up to a few hundred dollars per year.  There is also the fact that as a union member, you are part of a collective and you lose some of your autonomy.  Whether you agree with union decisions, you are bound to the employment contract they negotiate.  And, perhaps most unfortunate, many union workers report supervisors tend to be less collaborative.  This resulted in unionized workers feeling less trust, support, and partnership with management.

So, while outlining the basic differences between union and non-union workplaces is relatively straightforward, it is clear there are some underlying differences that must be carefully considered if you are entering a union or non-union workplace.  Plus, every union is different, so do your research and choose a workplace that fits for you and your values.

What is an Employment Resignation?

What is an Employment Resignation?

What is employment resignation?  It’s really quite simple.  Resignation is the process by which you officially end or terminate employment.  There are many ways to submit an employment resignation; depending on the nature of your employment contract or the laws in your province, you may resign verbally or in writing.  That being said, most employers will request written notification of your intent to resign – but why?

Human resources departments can be fastidious in their expectation to receive your employment resignation in writing.  Usually added to your personnel file, written notice of resignation provides your company a record of the date your employment ended.  This record can be used to protect the company in case any legal challenges come up, but it is also important with respect to processing the end of your employment for other legal reasons.  For example, in British Columbia, you are not eligible for employment insurance if you choose to resign.  Written notice of employment resignation is therefore used by your employer to file the necessary paperwork with government bodies.  Similarly, written notice of employment resignation is evidence that your employer did not terminate your employment – either with or without cause.

Many people see employment resignation as a difficult process, but it does not need to be viewed negatively.  Life circumstances change, sometimes there is a poor fit between you and your company, or you may be pursuing new challenges or opportunities.  Whatever your reasons for terminating your employment, the way you resign says a lot about you professionally.  Consider the company you work for and the position you hold when deciding to resign.  In many provinces, you are not legally required to provide any notice of termination – but how will this affect the company you work for and your ability to get a reference?  Alternatively, you may have signed an employment contract that very clearly outlines your responsibilities when you resign your employment.  Take care to provide your company with adequate and respectful notice.

Some other tips for employment resignation is to be brief.  Your written notice of employment resignation should include the current date, the final date of your employment, your name, and signature.  You are not required to provide a reason for your resignation, but many find it easiest to include something about “seeking new opportunities” to make the resignation more palatable to your employer.  At a minimum, it is usually recommended to provide 2 weeks’ notice of resignation.  Again, you’ll want to carefully consider your position, the impact of your resignation, and your employment contract in formatting your resignation letter.

Remember, a succinct and respectful resignation letter that provides adequate notice to your employer is the ideal way to terminate your employment.  You never know when you may cross paths with your employer or their human resources personnel in the future.

Social Media Mistakes to Avoid

Social Media Mistakes to Avoid

Despite its youth, social media has quickly become a powerful force in marketing.  Sharing opinions, services, products, and announcements via social media gives you the opportunity to reach a large audience with relative ease.  Yet, there are certainly major pitfalls to putting social media to work – and without careful planning, social media can ultimately be more of a threat than a benefit to your business.  So, when it comes to your social media activities, let’s take a look at some of the more serious social media mistakes to avoid.

Offensive or Obscene Content

Since social media messages tend to be short and they are distributed quickly, many companies make the mistake of not carefully crafting that message.  Social media is fast and cheap, but it can still have a major impact.  When you think about the time and energy you devote to developing traditional forms of media such as print or video, you probably think about the cost of the media and the ultimate value it may bring.  When it comes to social media, one huge mistake is to post or share a message without considering its impact.  It’s even more important to know your audience with social media because of the possibility that an offensive or obscene message can go viral.  Remember, your message is likely to be shared outside your target market, and this can both negatively and positively affect your business.

Giving Advice

Social media is interactive – your employees can use social media to communicate with your clients in real time which is one of the most powerful and influential aspects of this new form of outreach.  However, because social media can be delivered in real time, your control over the message is diluted.  It is never advisable to allow your staff to give customers advice over social media – questions about your product or service should be directed to an appropriate representative.  This will allow you to maintain a consistent marketing message without contributing to false or inaccurate information about your business.  After all, in an online world, these messages can be almost impossible to reverse.

Responding to Criticism

Not all customers are going to be happy. Even your competitors may take to criticizing you online.  While it’s appropriate to respond to criticism via social media, you want to be measured in your response.  If you employ a staff to manage your social media presence, make sure that they know they should never respond to criticisms or negative comments on official social media pages for your business.  Instead, employ a social media manager to professionally and appropriately deal with criticisms so that you can maintain a consistent message and so that accurate information is shared online.

Former top cop’s new job investigating abuse in hockey provokes unease

Labour Rights Law

Retired RCMP deputy commissioner Craig Callens has been hired to review allegations of abuse in the WHL (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

Retired deputy commissioner Craig Callens hired by WHL to review allegations from former players.

In a lawsuit filed last year, Cpl. Jill Swann alleges her boss called her “meth face,” mocked her weight gain and drew a target symbol on her body armour — and claims it all happened under the watch of B.C.’s former top Mountie.

Swann’s claims that deputy RCMP commissioner Craig Callens “failed, refused or neglected his duties” to address the alleged harassment from her supervisor on Vancouver Island are laid out in a lawsuit filed in B.C. Supreme Court last summer. Callens has yet to file a response to Swann’s claim, and none of the allegations in the lawsuit has been proven in court.

Swann’s lawyer, Sebastien Anderson, said he was shocked to learn that Callens had been hired to investigate allegations of abuse and exploitation in junior hockey.

“When he was commanding officer of E Division, he did very little to address serious allegations of workplace abuse … and that abuse continued for the duration of his command before he retired,” Anderson told CBC News, referring to allegations in Swann’s lawsuit.

He said Swann isn’t able to comment directly because she remains an officer in the RCMP and is bound by the force’s code of conduct.

Abuse claims in WHL

Callens retired last year after serving more than five years as the commanding officer for E Division, which covers all of B.C.

Last month, Western Hockey League commissioner Ron Robison confirmed in an email that the league had hired Callens to conduct an investigation into claims that former players had been mistreated by their teams.

WHL commissioner Ron Robison

WHL commissioner Ron Robison explained Callens’ new role in an email: “When two former players and a parent made allegations against certain WHL Clubs, we took steps to create a review.” (CBC)

Reached by phone in April, Callens said he would not comment on his new role or the allegations levelled against him by Anderson and in Swann’s lawsuit.

In a text message, Callens wrote: “As you would know, it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to respond to questions regarding the Swann matter as it is before the courts.”

The news of Callens’ new job isn’t sitting well with a pair of past and present Mounties who allege they were mistreated by fellow officers. The issue of harassment and abuse of female officers and civilian employees has dogged the RCMP in recent years.

One year ago, a federal court judge approved an unprecedented class-action settlement that could cover as many as 20,000 women who were sexually harassed while working for the RCMP over the last four decades. Compensation has been set at between $10,000 and $220,000 per woman.

‘It destroyed my entire life’

Among those filing for compensation through the class-action settlement is former B.C. RCMP spokesperson Catherine Galliford, who was the first high-profile Mountie to bring a sexual harassment suit against the force.

Word of Callens’ new job came as a shock to her as well.

“When I see him investigating harassment and abuse and negligence in the WHL, I become angry, and you can quote me on that,” Galliford told CBC News.

Catherine Galliford settled a lawsuit against the RCMP in 2016.

Catherine Galliford settled a lawsuit against the RCMP in 2016.

Though Callens wasn’t named as a defendant in Galliford’s lawsuit, he was the commanding officer when she filed her claim in 2012. She says she suffered while the force fought her claim for four years before settling in 2016.

CBC has no indication Callens was inconsiderate of her alleged situation.

“What the media and the public don’t really understand is that we went through all of that harassment in the workplace, but it’s when we complained about it … all of a sudden we became the horrible people — we were the whistleblowers,” she said.

“It destroyed my entire life, and this was under Craig Callens’ watch.”

She detailed some of her experiences in a letter to Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale two years ago, describing being questioned by RCMP lawyers during repeated examinations for discovery.

She said she was asked about her sex life, high school boyfriends, her childhood and whether she’d had her uniforms altered to make them tighter.

In response to Galliford’s concerns, Callens declined to comment in detail, writing: “The Galliford matter was concluded some time ago and the decision maker on that case was the Commissioner.”

The RCMP commissioner at the time was Bob Paulson, who also retired last year.

Robison, the WHL commissioner, declined through a spokesperson to comment on the allegations levelled by Swan and Galliford.

 

What to Do if You are Laid Off

 

Life can be stressful sometimes, and one of the most stressful events anyone can experience is the loss of a job.  When people get laid off they can be overwhelmed by financial worries, anxiety about job searches and interviews, or even how to break the news to their loved ones.  Still, optimism can be a great way to stay motivated – if you have been laid off, show compassion for yourself and be proactive in your search for new employment.  Remember, getting laid off likely has nothing to do with your work performance or skill set, and ultimately the experience may offer new opportunities you’d never before considered.  So, what should you do if you are laid off?

Get Organized

Legally, your employer is required to provide written notice of a layoff or financial compensation in lieu of notice.  Either way, you should have some time to get yourself organized for what comes next.  Depending on your length of service, the notice period will vary so be sure to know your rights.  Check with your HR department or even search online to ensure you are being treated fairly under the law in your region.  You’ll want to consider a number of factors:

  • When is your last pay?
  • What are your benefit entitlements?
  • Are you eligible for severance according to labour laws or your employment contract?
  • Who can you contact for references?

Available Support

Once you have a clear picture of your layoff, consider what kind of support is available to you.  Sometimes government services such as employment insurance or supported job searches can help you transition from one job to the next.  It’s well worth your while to determine what support is available to you as soon as possible.  You’re already in the groove of working regular hours, so you can focus your time and attention on what’s coming next.  As already stated, taking the proactive approach will ease your transition to new employment.

Your Personal and Professional Supports

Remember, you are not alone.  No matter how stressed out losing your job can be, you have friends, family, and professional relationships that can help you get back on your feet.  If you need to take some time for yourself, do it – getting laid off is a difficult experience, and giving yourself a few days to adjust is fair.  At the same time, relying on your network of friends and family will allow you to maintain perspective while considering what opportunities are available.  Don’t forget to reach out to your professional network to see what’s out there.  Your social media connections are another resource that can help you find appropriate work.

Make a Plan

Finally, when your mind has settled and you know the terms of your lay off, start to make a plan.  Keep structure in your day, manage your self-care, and put yourself to work finding suitable, challenging, and satisfying work.

What is Privacy Rights Law?

What is Privacy Rights Law?

What is Privacy Rights Law?

With respect to your right to privacy, do you understand the law in Canada?  Privacy rights law in Canada relates to your personal information and how different agencies, including government agencies can use that information.  When you consider how often you share personal information and the diverse range of organizations and institutions that receive this information, it should come as no surprise that privacy law in Canada is quite complex.  While the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms sets out the basic human rights to which all Canadians are entitled, it does not explicitly outline privacy rights.  Instead, the Privacy Act of 1983 is the first legislation to outline our rights to privacy.  Let’s have a closer look.

The Privacy Act in its original form speaks directly to how the federal government and associated institutions collect and use personal information as well as enforcing an individual’s right to access their information as held by the government.  In very broad terms, the Privacy Act sets forth fair practices for information collection and sharing.  Under the Privacy Act,

  • The government can only collect personal information that relates directly to program operations or activities,
  • In most cases, the government must inform an individual when their information is collected,
  • In most cases, the government can only use information for the purposes initially stated unless an individual provides consent,
  • In most cases, personal information held by the government cannot be disclosed to other parties,
  • Canadian citizens have the right to access their personal information, and
  • The Privacy Commissioner of Canada ensures the Act is applied appropriately.

Given technological advances and the changing nature of personal information, there have also been significant changes to the act.  For example, an individual’s right to access their private information was introduced as the Access to Information Act in 1985.  In addition, the Freedom of Information Act of 1996 was implemented to improve government accountability and individual protections.  Essentially, the Freedom of Information Act clarifies and expands on some of the principles of the previous two Acts.  The Freedom of Information Act provides public access to government records not otherwise protected b the Privacy Act, provides individuals an opportunity to correct their personal information, and prevents unauthorized dissemination of personal information of personal information across public organizations.

Of course, thus far we have only discussed your privacy laws insofar as they relate to government collection of personal information.  However, there are also protections for how private sector organizations use your information.  Federally, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act regulates data privacy and private-sector collection and use of personal information.  As you can see, protecting your privacy is a complicated matter which is why it is important to work with legal professionals whenever you have concerns about your personal information.