HR Lessons for Small Business from Rubin CBC Report

ghomeshi-rubinSix months after CBC fired radio host Jian Ghomeshi for inappropriate conduct, CBC released the report prepared by employment lawyer Janice Rubin investigating the company’s handling of the situation. The report found that CBC management had failed to investigate reports of inappropriate behaviour in the workplace by Mr. Ghomeshi.

The report also found that his behaviour violated CBC standards, and led to “an intimidating, humiliating, hostile or offensive work environment.” Ms Rubin said management was aware of this behaviour and failed to follow its own policies “to ensure that the workplace was free from disrespectful and abusive conduct.” The report also included a series of recommendations to prevent similar issues from arising in the future at the CBC.

There are a number of HR lessons for small business that can be applied from the recommendations of Rubin’s CBC report of the Ghomeshi case. Here are a few that stand out:

1. Set clear behavioural standards
If the legal obligation under Bill 14 wasn’t enough, then the consequences of a potential media firestorm for putting up with inappropriate behaviour in your workplace should be further motivation to ensure that your business has a clearly defined respectful work environment policy. This policy needs to include examples of inappropriate behavioural standards, and the consequences for not meeting these behavioural standards. Training of managers and staff on the policy, behavioural standards, and complaint process is also required.

2. Consistently enforce these behavioural standards
These behavioural standards apply to all members of an organization, including owners, senior managers, “rainmakers”, or anyone else who may think they are “above the law”. No one, regardless of their position or ownership stake, is allowed to engage in disrespectful, harassing or discriminating behaviour. The enforcement of these standards must be applied consistently, regardless of level.

3. Investigate all complaints, regardless of formality
What should an employee do if a senior level manager or owner is the one who’s behaviour is inappropriate? All complaints, whether presented as a written formal complaint or not, should be investigated. Ensuring your employees have a credible, independent avenue that they can access to discuss inappropriate behaviour is important to ensuring your workplace remains a respectful work environment.

4. Protect your vulnerable employees
Certain employees, whether based on their age, stage of career or the nature of their employment, can be vulnerable to putting up with a hostile work environment for fear of retribution if they were to complain about the behaviour of their boss or someone else with influence. Potentially vulnerable employees may be experiencing high financial or emotional costs by putting up with harassing behaviour. Employers must ensure that these employees are protected and safe.

The Jian Ghomeshi situation, along with the investigation report by Janice Rubin into the CBC’s handling of the situation, is a wake-up call to many employers, large or small. All employers must create a healthy work environment, and deal with inappropriate behaviours swiftly. For human resource management assistance in creating a respectful work environment policy and training for your small business, please contact Vancouver-based human resources consultants Clear HR Consulting.


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