By Kevin Werner, News Staff
Hamilton’s city manager, Chris Murray says the City of Hamilton remains a work place free of harassment despite an arbitrator’s ruling that blasted the municipality for not taking more seriously an employee’s sexual harassment complaint.
During a late evening news conference Sept. 25 after over a two-and-a-half-hour in-camera meeting with politicians, Murray said he will be discussing with his estimated 600-plus managers about creating a positive workplace for females, while also investigating why a fired employed who sent pornographic emails to a female employee somehow received glowing references from city officials that allowed him to get hired by the City of Guelph.
“This kind of behaviour is completely unacceptable,” said Murray. “We are committed to ensuring a respectful work environment. I’m very disappointed our policy for a harassment-free workplace was not followed.”
In a 70-page decision by arbitrator Kelly Waddingham between the city and the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 107 on behalf of a 23-year Hamilton Street Railway employee, who was not identified, found the city “did not accord AB’s complaint the seriousness it deserved and, further, that it essentially left AB to fend for herself.”
The cased was prompted by AB’s supervisor, Bill Richardson, who, the arbitrator detailed, sent lewd emails, insulted and inappropriately touched AB over a three-year period. AB was the only female in the 14-member inspector crew that communicates with drivers and helps direct daily transit service.
Waddingham stated that the city “failed to take even the most basic measures to protect her…”
AB received $25,000 in the arbitrator’s settlement, including $20,000 in damages because the city did not provide adequate protection. She also filed a human rights complaint that was settled outside of the arbitration hearing.
Murray said he will be talking to the female employee and to the rest of the city’s employees about the issue.
“It’s critical we apologize,” he said.
Richardson was eventually fired without cause in August 2012 after 24 years as an HSR employee. He received, the arbitrator said, a $200,000 severance payout.
Murray disagreed with the figure, saying during the news conference the payout was “significantly lower.” He refused to identify how much money was given toRichardson.
Richardson was eventually hired by the City of Guelph on Sept. 8 as supervisor of mobility services. He was fired by the municipality on Sept. 24 after Guelph officials found out about the arbitrator’s report.
In an effort to bolster the city’s reputation,Murraysaid management staff will review its harassment policies and procedures; post Human Rights Code cards and notice of employees’ right to a discrimination-free workplace; and put up the city’s policies and procedure prevention of harassment.
Murray said HSR has already started to review its workplace environment, and the culture it fosters.
“All departments are engaging in this conversation,” said Murray.
Council approved a motion to review a 2005 policy that provides severance payments to workers who are let go without cause.
This is the second time since July whenMurrayhas had to face the media over improper actions by a city employee. During another late-night news conference, Murray and other city staff revealed they had reported a $1 million fraud by a city employee who had been doing it for about nine years to the Hamilton Police Service. That investigation is on-going.
Ward 8 councillor Terry Whitehead said “mistakes will be made” in such a large organization that isHamilton. The test is how the municipality improves on its actions.
The city manager said it’s difficult to oversee a large city.
“It frustrates me as well,” saidMurray. “In an organization with 7,200 employees, any large organization there is things people are going to do u just wish they wouldn’t do. I can’t pretend any of that away. We are dealing with a very diverse workforce, very large workforce, and it’s all happening under the public eye.”