Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Harassment Investigators Brace for Possible Weinstein-Inspired Boost in Complaints

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Harassment Investigators Brace for Possible Weinstein-Inspired Boost in Complaints

Article excerpt

Harassment investigators brace for Weinstein boost

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TORONTO - Media reports detailing sexual harassment claims against high-profile film and TV titans including Harvey Weinstein and Bill O'Reilly have been relentless.

So too are the far less-sensational claims being made in average workplaces everyday, says Toronto workplace harassment investigator Monica Jeffrey.

"Every investigator that I know right now in Toronto is just totally, totally swamped," Jeffrey says of non-stop claims that spiked in the past year.

"Definitely no workplace is immune from these types of issues."

Jeffrey doesn't suggest the accusers in her recent cases were inspired to come forward by the ongoing Hollywood allegations, but she and other experts predict that's just around the corner.

Toronto employment lawyer David Whitten noted a jump in cases when headlines were dominated by the downfall and subsequent trial of CBC Radio star Jian Ghomeshi, which started with his dismissal in the fall of 2014.

"We definitely saw a spike, we saw people coming forward, we got a number of consultations for sure," says Whitten, calling that time period "our Weinstein scandal."

Indeed, one of the most dramatic results of the Weinstein scandal has been the wave of accusers who have come out of the woodwork to name the Oscar-winning producer in similar offences. Countless other women and men have rallied around the Twitter hashtag #metoo to reveal their own experiences with sex abuse, including in the workplace.

Allegations surrounding Ghomeshi sparked the similar hashtag #BeenRapedNeverReported, linking thousands of other girls and women in solidarity as they, too, shared their stories.

Whitten and Jeffrey believe that movement had real impact -- it recast sexual violence as a widespread, systemic problem and put bosses across Canada on notice that, increasingly, such incidents would not be tolerated.

"CBC was pilloried for how they handled the matter and really, that I think was the final straw for employers that had their heads in the sand,'" says Whitten, of the firm Whitten and Lublin.

There's no question bombshell headlines can empower people to come forward with valid complaints, adds Jeffrey.

"A lot of people don't bring forward their claims for fear -- it's a fear of losing their job, a fear of retaliation, they're just fearful, frankly. That's the number one reason people don't (make) complaints," says Jeffrey, whose firm JMJ Workplace Investigation Law LLP acts as a third-party neutral body when called to investigate.

"When a news story like this hits ... people start reflecting on their own experiences and then from that they're like, 'You know what, I'm not going to deal with this anymore.'"

Jeffrey also links the Ghomeshi scandal to helping spur greater provincial protections that took effect in September 2016. …

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