Thursday, April 18, 2013

'Want to be harassed do we? Go work for the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal!

Good Day Readers:

You may recall a few short years ago the Canadian Human Rights Commission was in the news. It seems it suffered from bad morale and high staff turnover the result of a dictatorial management style. Should you be surprised? Who's children run around the neighbourhood with holes in their shoes? Right, the shoemaker's. Whose personal finances are in a mess? Right again the accountant who handles millions of dollars a day for a large corporation. Who's given to legal transgressions? Jeez you're good - lawyers.

So why can't the Canadian Human Rights Commission/Tribunal seem to master the definition of harassment? How would you like to be Ms Chotalia with that on her resume? Perhaps the larger question to be asked is, "How in the hell did she get appointed in the first place? Someone really screwed up - majorly! Wonder what kind of severance package she got?

Clare L. Pieuk

Canadian Human Rights Tribunal former head guilty of harassment, report says

Chris Cobb

Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Shirish Chotalia formerly quit last November as chairperson of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, four years before the end of her term, but had effectively been sidelined since April 2012 after a series of public embarrassments and a scathing Federal Court decision that criticized her management of a landmark case involving the welfare of native children. (Photograph by: Paul Welch)

OTTAWA — The former chairperson of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal was guilty of “gross mismanagement” in her abuse and harassment of employees, a scathing report by Canada’s Public Sector Integrity Commission says.

The Citizen has learned that in his report scheduled to be tabled in Parliament Thursday, Public Service Integrity Commissioner Mario Dion will say that Conservative appointee Shirish Chotalia “demonstrated improper behaviour and made inappropriate remarks in the workplace (and) disregarded essential advice from her staff.”

Dion is also expected to report that Chotalia’s treatment of her staff and fellow members of the CHRT had a “serious impact” on their health.

The commission investigates and rules on wrongdoings in the public sector and protects whistleblowers from reprisals.

Chotalia formally quit last November, four years before the end of her term, but had effectively been sidelined since April 2012 after a series of public embarrassments and a scathing Federal Court decision that criticized her management of a landmark case involving the welfare of native children.

The Alberta lawyer, appointed to the post by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in late 2009, had officially been on stress leave in the months before she quit.

In late 2011, an independent investigator upheld two harassment complaints brought against her by former employees.

The investigator said Chotalia had personally monitored the performance of a clerical worker whom she considered incompetent and who had refused her demands to do work for which he wasn’t qualified.

“It is certainly baffling, if not bizarre, that the chairperson, who had a great deal on her plate during this period and was undoubtedly on a huge learning curve, would devote so much time and attention to the performance of a relatively low-level employee,” he wrote.

But the Integrity Commission, which began its investigation two years ago, goes further and says the “misconduct is completely incompatible with the trust that the Government of Canada placed in her as the chairperson of the CHRT; and the serious impact of the wrongdoing on the public interest and trust in CHRT, which has the mandate to uphold the Canadian Human Rights Act.”

Chotalia has repeatedly refused to comment publicly on her situation or the accusations against her.
“Ms. Chotalia’s behaviour towards several employees and members of the CHRT constitute harassment and abuses of authority,” says the commission.

“She demonstrated inappropriate behaviour, made unreasonable demands and made inappropriate comments,” it continues. “Her actions created a dysfunctional workplace for employees and members of the CHRT and had the effect of potentially jeopardizing the ability of the CHRT to fulfil its mandate. The frequency and severity of the misconduct amount to gross mismanagement.”

Chotalia’s harassment and abusive behaviour was directed at employees at all levels, adds the report.

“The evidence demonstrates that Ms. Chotalia harassed a director at the CHRT, following an incident where the director defended an employee against Ms. Chotalia’s verbal abuse. Furthermore, Ms. Chotalia spread misinformation in the workplace about this person, falsely stating that the director had not fulfilled required tasks. Ms. Chotalia purposely attacked this employee’s credibility and questioned his or her professionalism without justification.

“The evidence also demonstrates that Ms. Chotalia kept a secret file on this employee, entitled Insubordination of (Name and Title Withheld).

“The chairperson harassed another director at the CHRT by submitting him or her to an aggressive interrogation, questioning his competencies in front of three other employees up to the point that the employee broke down and cried.”

Robin Kers, spokesman for the Union of Solicitor General Employees, said he was pleased with the report — “the first of its kind into a government institution” — because it should give public servants the confidence to go to the commission when they run out of other options.

The case was complicated, he added, because Treasury Board guidelines were not written to account for cases involving government “CEOs.”

Dion will hold a news conference Thursday to discuss his report.


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