All posts tagged bureaucratic abuse of authority

Another blow to accountability in the federal government

Last week the Supreme Court dismissed an application to appeal a rejected grievance filed by a former government executive, Zabia Chamberlain. Ms. Chamberlain’s grievance was that she was sexually harassed and physically intimidated at work by her boss. The facts of the case were not in question – the man did these things repeatedly and boldly. The point of dispute was that he wasn’t appropriately disciplined for it (he only had to go a training session) and he wasn’t removed from her work space.

To make matters worse, it was Ms. Chamberlain who was in fact punished, being stripped of her position and labelled as a troublemaker.

Ms. Chamberlain found the grievance process to be useless. This is not a surprise: senior management controls the process and, in effect, used it as another way to punish her – by frustrating her at every step.

The fact is that the government’s grievance process is completely broken. I myself sat in a grievance hearing where a Director General adjudicated a grievance in which she was a respondent. With abuses of power like that, it’s no surprise that the average worker has no faith in the process any more.

Indeed, the boldness with which managers manipulate the process suggests that they know what they are doing, feel entitled to do so and expect no consequences.… Read the rest

Bullying in the federal government out of control

Today I thought I would highlight a series of stories have come out of Ottawa in the past week. They pertain to bullying and mobbing in the government workplace.

The story that triggered this was that of Zabia Chamberlain, who was a low-level executive being harassed and bullied by her boss. When she tried to do something about it, the senior bureaucracy closed ranks and pushed her out of her job.

They did this using the particularly nasty technique called mobbing. Mobbing involves ganging up on another person in the workplace in order to force that person out. Tactics can include shunning, malicious comments, exclusion from important events, and many other actions. Participants do so out of malice, to avoid being targeted themselves, and out of ignorance. Part of the process involves imagining the target as less than a real person – as somehow deserving of the treatment.

Being the social creatures that we are, it’s a particularly effective and inhumane tactic that is favoured by bullies. Whistleblowers are routinely subjected to it.

Unfortunately, many of the things done aren’t recognized as harassment. As a result, victims are left defenceless.

You may wonder why the average Canadian should care. Well, the simple answer is that it costs money – a lot of money.… Read the rest

Veterans Affairs slammed for failing to punish wrongdoers

I just finished watching the political debates on TV and was discouraged that the handing of veterans got so little attention. It was just a few months ago that Sean Bruyea’s story broke, after all, and just a few weeks ago that Veteran’s Affairs announced the “punishment” for the bureaucrats who tried to destroy him.

For those of you who haven’t been following this, Bruyea is a veteran of the Gulf War and a vocal critic of Veterans Affairs’ handling of wounded sailors, soldiers and airmen and women under the New Veterans Charter. This raised the ire of government officials, who circulated his medical documents in an effort to destroy his credibility. They also tried to have him institutionalized – like they used to do in Communist Russia.

A complaint to the Privacy Commissioner led to her finding that the bureaucrats had broken the law. But rather than have heads role, the department conducted its own internal investigation – a favourite in cover-up circles – and handed out a maximum punishment of three days suspension with pay. Only a few of those who reviewed his files were investigated, and Bruyea himself was never interviewed.

This week, Bruyea shot back at the department in a Hill Times op-ed.… Read the rest