CBC workplace harassment focus of attention again

Daily Brew

CBC workplace issues are in the spotlight again this week, with one former executive suing the broadcaster for wrongful dismissal and other employees alleging more workplace harassment.

Todd Spencer is suing the public broadcaster for $700,000 in relation to his firing, which came after the Jian Ghomeshi scandal.

And on Thursday Canadaland — headed by a journalist Jesse Brown — who played a key role in breaking the Ghomeshi sex assault allegations — reported allegations of workplace harassment at other CBC shows.

The two events raise the possibility that the public broadcaster has not dealt with problems in its workplace culture as effectively as it has claimed to have done since Ghomeshi’s firing from his role as host of the Q radio show in 2014. 

A CBC independent inquiry found in 2015 that its workplace didn’t adequately provide employees a workplace free of “disrespectful and abusive behaviour.” The broadcaster announced the firing of Spencer and another senior executive the same day the independent report was released, and has since stated that the issues found in the report have been dealt with.

16-hour work days

The Canadaland article stated that more than a dozen CBC employees have told the online news outlet of current or past incidents of workplace harassment at CBC Radio One, CBC TV Sports and CBC human resources.

The new allegations counter the CBC’s assertions that workplace harassment is being dealt with proactively at the broadcaster, Canadaland reports.

Producers for the radio show As It Happens approached the Canadian Media Guild with allegations of workplace complaints, beginning this past winter, according to emails Canadaland obtained. The complaints as listed in the emails include racist and sexist attitudes, verbal abuse and intimidation. No official union grievances were filed and the CBC has denied the allegations.

Three former television contractors told Canadaland that working for the broadcaster during its coverage of the Pan Am Games in summer 2015 involved 16-hour days with no breaks, lack of access to proper food and water while working, and an instance of verbal abuse that resulted in a formal apology.

Spencer claims unfair firing

At the time of his firing, Spencer was CBC’s executive director of human resources and industrial relations. He led the first internal investigation into Ghomeshi’s actions while he was an employee, beginning in June 2014 when two Q journalists inquired about the situation.

In his lawsuit, filed in Ontario Superior Court in March, Spencer accused CBC of publicly shaming and sacrificing him for political reasons. The suit claims that the broadcaster fabricated reasons to fire him in order to avoid the optics of paying him severance amid the fallout of the Ghomeshi allegations.

In the statement of claim Spencer says that the CBC’s “harsh, vindictive, reprehensible and malicious or highhanded” conduct “must not be condoned by the court especially given the CBC’s stature as Canada’s public broadcaster.” 

In a statement of defence, CBC said that Spencer only purported to investigate the claims against Ghomeshi, mislead the broadcaster about what he knew and did not pursue allegations two employees made about the radio host’s workplace behaviour.

None of the allegations have yet been proven in court.

The CBC referred to its statement of defence and declined to comment on the case to Yahoo Canada News.

With files from The Canadian Press