Manitoba investigated 24 reports of sexual harassment within civil service last year: new stats

Manitoba received 417 complaints of bullying, harassment and other forms of misconduct — including 25 reports of sexual harassment — from within the civil service in the past fiscal year.

The province investigated 291 complaints and found 288 of them to be substantiated, Minister of Sport, Culture and Heritage Minister Cathy Cox announced on Thursday.

The numbers are from the province’s annual respectful workplace statistics, released Thursday as part of the Progressive Conservative government’s 2018 commitment to share the stats each year.

Based on the 25 sexual harassment complaints in the 2019-20 fiscal year, 24 investigations were completed (the province’s report notes that the number of investigations completed does not include any that were still progress at the end of the fiscal  year).

Those 24 investigations looked at 32 different sexual harassment allegations. (An investigation could involve more than one allegation, the province’s report says.)

Of those allegations, 20 were substantiated, Cox said. That led to 10 instances of disciplinary action, 10 instances of further training or education and two instances of mediation.

“We’re working hard to create a respectful environment in all government offices where employees can work free of harassment and know that no form of harassment will be tolerated,” Cox said.

The minister said due to confidentiality, she couldn’t say how many employees were terminated as a result of their conduct in a sexual harassment complaint.

“Those are HR issues and I really can’t disclose that today,” she said.

The statistics reflect reports from the province’s core civil services, as well as universities and Crown corporations, she said.

They show a decrease in the overall number of reports — down to 291 in 2019-20 from 440 in 2018-19 — but a small bump in the number of sexual harassment investigations: 24 in the past fiscal year compared to 22 in the previous year.

“That is a slight increase from last year, which suggests heightened awareness and decreased tolerance in the workplace,” Cox said Thursday.

“We are hopeful that the sustained number is a sign that employees continue to feel safe about coming forward with their concerns.”

Respectful workplace training now required yearly

In 2018, the Progressive Conservative government took a number of steps to tackle sexual harassment and bullying in the civil service after reports of misconduct surfaced, including allegations from female staff that former NDP cabinet minister Stan Struthers tickled and groped them.

More reports surfaced later, including allegations of misconduct against longtime Manitoba Progressive Conservative party member and MLA Cliff Graydon and NDP MLA Mohinder Saran. Graydon and Saran were both ousted from their respective caucuses following the reports.

The measures the government committed to included the annual release of complaint statistics, as well as employee consultations and a “no wrong door” approach for political staff to report harassment of any kind.

Cox said while she wasn’t aware of any allegations made against anyone working at the Manitoba Legislature in the last fiscal year, including ministers or ministerial staff, they would be reflected in Thursday’s numbers.

She also announced Thursday the province is working on updating its respectful workplace and harassment prevention training online.

All government employees will now be required to take the training once a year, she said, instead of on a one-time basis.

“I think it’s really important that Manitobans know that as a government … we don’t tolerate this type of behaviour in the workplace.”

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