UVic employee resigns amid sexual harassment investigation

The University of Victoria employee under investigation over complaints of sexual harassment and bullying has resigned, receiving a settlement package after signing a non-disclosure agreement.

That has angered the UVic employees who launched the complaints, which were being investigated by the human resources department.

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They say the resignation allows the man to walk away without being disciplined, and does not hold accountable any management employees who might have dismissed complaints about his behaviour.

“It’s disgusting,” said one employee.

“These are all victims that have to suck it up and continue their job. There’s no closure for anyone involved.”

UVic employees who talked to the Times Colonist allege the man showed them nude photographs of his sexual partners, bragged about his promiscuity and about being in an open relationship, and suggested threesomes with co-workers.

The man allegedly asked both male and female workers to show him their genitals or their breasts. Other employees alleged the man’s behaviour has included verbal abuse, ridicule and threats of violence.

The employees interviewed by the Times Colonist did not want to make public their names or the department in which they work.

The investigation into the employee’s actions was carried out over two months, while employee was on a paid leave of absence.

When contacted by the Times Colonist, he refused to make any comment.

Another employee said the resignation makes it seem “almost like it never happened. Management is not taking responsibility whatsoever for anything that occurred.”

“If [the University of Victoria] has to admit he was carrying on that way for five years, they would look bad and they can’t have that,” the employee said.

The university and the union representing many UVic employees both said that privacy rules prevent them from commenting on the case.

“When the University of Victoria responds to concerns, it is a confidential process — and that includes any outcome,” said Denise Helm, UVic’s media relations and public affairs manager.

Lori Wilcox, the national servicing representative for the Canadian Union of Public Employees, said she was unable to discuss specifics of the investigation.

“The local has been in contact over the last couple of days with members in the department, discussing the events and processes for them,” Wilcox said.

Since the Times Colonist broke the story about the employee, several current and former employees from different departments have raised concerns about how the human resources department and the CUPE local have handled complaints about bullying and harassment.

One employee said she complained to her union representative about a supervisor who made sexist remarks, including suggesting she should sleep with someone to further her career.

She said two other employees complained and the union alerted management that it had started an investigation, but it appeared nothing was done.

Another woman said the level of stress in her department was so bad, and went unaddressed by her superiors for so long, that she had a mental-health breakdown and was suicidal.

“I was looking for help and I didn’t get it,” she said.

“The system is really not there to back you up whatsoever. The employee body has been completely forgotten.”

The woman provided the Times Colonist a medical note from her counsellor that stated she suffered work-related stress. She is on medical leave and is waiting to be approved for long-term disability benefits.

CUPE’s Wilcox said that if an employee with a complaint is not comfortable talking to a supervisor or manager, he or she should talk to the union representative.

“If they’re saying that they have [done that] and … that’s not getting them satisfaction, they need to move up, contact a member of the executive,” Wilcox said.

“If people are feeling hurt and upset, yes we need to deal with it and there are processes through UVic and through the collective agreement that we can access.”

Helm said employees have several options if they have a concern they want resolved, “including working through the unit’s manager, their union, Human Resources or the Office of Equity and Human Rights.”

kderosa@timescolonist.com

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