One of the biggest names in Canadian news this past year has been Jian Ghomeshi. Now, there’s no need to waste any breath or space writing about what he did or did not do because the courts have already ruled, he has already apologized and everyone already holds their own opinions.  

From an HR perspective however, there’s a lot that can be learned from this entire messy ordeal. Because although in a perfect world, harassment would never happen in the workplace, a scandal of this magnitude should act as a wake-up call for every business.  

Because remember, before the Ghomeshi affair crawled its way through our court system there was a CBC internal report on how its management handled (or mishandled) the situation.  

As an employer, you need to have solid workplace policies that are in line with provincial employment laws and human rights legislation. But employment laws are constantly changing, so now is a good time to take a good hard look at your policies to see if they need to evolve as well.  

Along with strong policies is the need for a clear process for reporting, investigating and resolving any complaints about harassment or discrimination. This process must be well planned, easy to navigate and transparent to all.  

And don’t forget, the definition of workplace extends beyond your company’s physical site. Workplace protection from harassment covers any site where an employee does business or attends social work-related events.  

It’s an easy no-brainer to write all this because let’s face it; we all know (or should know) that everyone has the right to work in a harassment-free environment. But the message in the CBC internal report was clear and should serve as a warning for every business owners – no matter how strong an employee’s performance, or how important that employee is to the business – improper behaviour cannot be tolerated. The Ghomeshi situation reached its boiling point because several key senior CBC managers either didn’t understand the risks associated with their actions or they chose not to intervene and enforce the workplace policies. So, just because the rules are known doesn’t mean they won’t be bent or stretched over time.  

As an employer, the best thing you can do to emphasize your intolerance for workplace sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination is to provide ongoing training and refresher courses on company policies and reporting procedures. This is the best way to ensure that everyone fully understands the policies and the importance of them.  

After all this is not a process or an issue that should ever be taken lightly.

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