The Royal Canadian Legion’s decision to fire their B.C. president, allegedly in response to the suspension of eight people involved in a sexual harassment claim, sends the wrong message to the organization’s employees.
Former president Glenn Hodge, who presided over the B.C. Legion (BC/Yukon Command), investigated a female staff member’s claim that she endured inappropriate remarks about her physical appearance and breasts. Her dress code was also questioned.
In order to properly investigate the claim, an external human resources firm was hired to examine the allegations. CTV News reports that the firm found the allegations were “substantiated.”
Hodge reacted by removing the eight members in question from their positions and suspending them.
CTV News also notes that an internal memo was issued by the B.C. Legion, stating that the alleged harassment reflected “poorly on our organization as a whole” and put the Legion “at risk for litigation.”
Despite this, Legion headquarters in Ottawa overturned Hodge’s decision to suspend one particular member – First Vice President Valerie MacGregor. In fact, MacGregor not only had her employment reinstated, but actually enjoyed a promotion to the position of president of BC/Yukon Command, thereby ousting Hodge from his post.
Hodge told CTV News that he was trying to “lead by example… and if you don’t lead by example, the whole system breaks down.”
MacGregor resigned as president once CTV News began their investigation. WorkSafe BC is investigating, and will determine if the province’s regulations were broken in this case.
B.C. Legion Sends Chilling Message
The Royal Canadian Legion’s reaction to these allegations and the investigation that took place sends a chilling message to all of their employees. They are essentially telling their employees that the Legion, as the employer, will not have their back if they are being mistreated.
If somebody is allegedly punished for attempting to address a sexual harassment claim, there is a good chance that employees while hesitate to raise a harassment issue again in the future.
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Severance & Human Rights Violation
If Hodge was in fact trying to protect an employee from sexual harassment, and was fired for doing so, this could be a violation of British Columbia’s human rights law.
Employees who find themselves the target of workplace harassment of any kind, or are fired for reporting or reprimanding those responsible for workplace harassment, are well protected and insulated by BC Employment and human rights law. We encourage those who may find themselves in a similar position to, first and foremost, seek legal advice.
The legal framework within which employment relationships are governed goes to considerable lengths to incentivize employees to come forward with complaints of harassment. This framework also explicitly disincentivizes employers from creating an atmosphere that would discourage individuals from coming forward. Speak to a lawyer, inform yourself as to your rights and the employer’s obligations, and feel confident that you are entitled to work in a workplace free from harassment.