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City of Edmonton employees not speaking up about inappropriate behaviour

According to the results of the 2020 employee experience survey, 11 per cent of respondents claimed they had experienced discrimination in the workplace, while 9 per cent responded they had been victims of harassment. Although these numbers are down from 2018, where almost 14 per cent of employees reported experiencing discrimination and 24 per cent reported harassment, there's a lingering problem: most employees experiencing discrimination, harassments or any other such unwarranted behaviours aren’t speaking up.

Incidents generally include unreasonable demands, angry outbursts, sarcasm and insults: 14 to 20 per cent of employees have reported these. However, another 5% have reported another slough of equally problematic behaviours, including confidentiality breaches, retaliation, jokes about their identity, sexual innuendo, embarrassing practical jokes, and gaslighting.

According to the Edmonton Journal, 60 per cent of respondents didn’t do anything to address the situation; 69 per cent believed it wouldn’t make a difference. 32 percent claimed that they were afraid of retaliation from their bosses.

“We really want to work on giving people the opportunity and encouragement to come forward and talk about what’s bothering them,” said employee services deputy city manager Kim Armstrong in a meeting with the press.

Although a "safe disclosure office" was launched back in January 2019 for employees to confidentially report problematic behaviour, only 39 per cent of respondents were aware of the service. Furthermore, 23 per cent of those who faced discrimination said they don’t trust the safe disclosure process.

To respond to this issue, the city is attempting to improve workplace culture. "Discrimination from the public continues to rise. We recognize these are challenging times for each and every one of us and at the same time, harassment and discrimination is never acceptable,” reported Armstrong. “We are asking ourselves what we can do before, during and after these interactions.”

TBT reached out to Ward 3 councillor Jon Dziadyk for comment. "I find it disheartening that one in ten City of Edmonton employees have faced discrimination. This is not a culture we want to exist within our organization. I would encourage those 60% who did not report the incidents to speak up, so we can better identify ways to stop it. It is clear that we need to rethink aspects of how we do business," he responded.

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