The Perils of Turning a Blind Eye to Workplace Harassment
This is the latest cautionary tale for Alberta employers. Workplace harassment and violence can be insidious, often impacting employees who are afraid to speak up for fear of job loss, embarrassment, or other retaliation. By the time the organization receives a formal complaint, it’s too late, the harassment is widespread, affecting several employees, and resulting in a ‘poisoned work environment,’ damaged morale, and significant financial and reputational liability for the employer.
In this case, it was incumbent upon the alleged perpetrator’s co-executives and human resources to respond quickly and decisively when they first received information regarding Nasserdeen’s behaviour. Given Nasserdeen’s senior role at the company, Coventry’s first step should have been to consult with and retain an external workplace investigation firm to conduct an independent investigation into the matter. When it comes to employee lawsuits against employers, the most common grounds for the litigation, are that the employer either failed to properly investigate (or investigate at all) or knew of the harassment but failed to take reasonable steps to ensure employee safety.
No employer wants to find out that they have a serial harasser (sexual or non-sexual) in their organization; however, if it can be proven that Coventry failed to investigate and address these concerns, the minor expense and inconvenience of an external investigation pale in comparison to what is now front-page news.