Workplace Harassment Unaddressed Wreaks Havoc on Morale

The RCMP provides a perfect example of how not to handle workplace harassment complaints

Posted by Dawn Lomer in Bullying, Code of Conduct, Discrimination, Ethics & Compliance, Harassment, Human Resources on February 26th, 2013

A harassment problem that goes unchecked in a company can wreak havoc on morale and spark lawsuits. But when the behavior goes unaddressed for many years, well, it’s a recipe for disaster.

Last week, the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP released a report outlining serious breaches in policy and processes for reporting and investigating workplace harassment. It’s a valuable lesson for employers on the importance of having a consistent, thorough system for recording, tracking and investigating employee complaints.

During the inquiry, which covered six years of complaints, the commission concluded that RCMP’s harassment policy is vague, open to widely varying interpretations and application across Canada, and its researchers found a glaring gap in documentation.

Types of Misconduct

Of the files reviewed by the commission:

  • 90 per cent involved bullying, psychological abuse, and belittling and demeaning behavior
  • 6 per cent involved harassment targeting an individual’s ethnicity or disability
  • 4 per cent were classified as sexual harassment

Harassment Victims

Surprisingly, 61 per cent of the victims of bullying turned out to be uniformed Mounties, not civilian workers as you might expect. And just as surprisingly, 49 per cent of the victims were men and 44 per cent women. The others not specified.

However, Janet Merlo, a former Mountie, the lead plaintiff in a proposed class-action lawsuit against the RCMP involving up to 200 women, said that the report couldn’t reveal the true scope of harassment because so many women “suffered in silence for years.” She says that the women didn’t complain because they had nobody to complain to and no faith in the process.


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The commission published a list of recommendations, which included:

  • better tracking and monitoring of complaints
  • better data collection
  • better training for RCMP supervisors and harassment investigators
  • clearer definitions of “harassment” and “workplace conflict”
  • speedier timelines for resolution
  • regular and publicly-reported evaluations of progress
  • external review mechanism of harassment decisions

Of course it makes sense for me to mention here that a robust case management solution for workplace investigations would take care of at least half of the recommendations mentioned above, providing the RCMP with the documentation, tracking, investigation and reporting support it needs to defend its processes against any allegations of incompetence going forward.

Complaint Management Solution

So, what should the RCMP do to ensure its complaints are recorded, investigated, documented and reported in a way that will hold up under the scrutiny that it is bound to face going forward?


Dawn Lomer
Dawn Lomer

Managing Editor

Dawn Lomer is the managing editor at i-Sight Software and a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE). She writes about topics related to workplace investigations, ethics and compliance, data security and e-discovery, and hosts i-Sight webinars.

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