The City of Ottawa needs to increase its efforts to prevent violence and harassment in the workplace, a new report from its auditor general finds.
The audit, which was released on Wednesday, examined compliance, governance, training, awareness, monitoring and reporting of workplace violence and harassment at the city from the start of 2021 to the end of 2022.
Its objective was to assess whether the city had established a safe, healthy and respectful workplace in compliance with policy and legislation.
But Auditor General Nathalie Gougeon found the city has work to do.
"Our report highlights the need for greater prevention of violence and harassment in the workplace," Gougeon wrote.
"While the city continues to take steps to prevent violence and harassment in the workplace, it is important to acknowledge that cultural changes may not be fully realized for years to come."
In a new report, City of Ottawa Auditor General Nathalie Gougeon says the city needs to do more for its staff to prevent workplace violence and harassment. (Jean Delisle/CBC)
Report surveyed thousands of staff
As part of the report, Gougeon's office distributed a survey on workplace violence and harassment to more than 17,000 municipal employees.
Because just 3,697 employees responded — and the motivations of those who did are unknown — Gougeon acknowledged the findings may contain biases skewed toward the respondents' experiences.
As well, city employees with Ottawa Public Health, the Ottawa Police Service and the Ottawa Public Library were excluded.
"In no way have we attempted to extrapolate or make assumptions about the entire employee population based on the survey results," the report read.
Nonetheless, among respondents, 39 per cent said they do not feel the city takes on-the-job violence and harassment seriously and is not committed to building a healthy and respectful workplace.
Another 35 per cent said they are aware of abusive, disrespectful treatment of employees across their service area.
And nearly half of respondents — 49 per cent — said they're less than comfortable in submitting a formal complaint about workplace violence and harassment, largely due to a lack of trust in management and fear of some form of reprisal.
Current policy went into effect 2021
The city's current workplace violence and harassment policy went into effect Jan. 1, 2021 and has since been updated.
Under that policy, issues related to violence or harassment are subject to either an informal or formal resolution, with a "designated person" conducting the investigation in the latter case and issuing recommendations as needed.
In 2021, there were 89 cases reported, of which three were resolved informally or withdrawn.
But last year, that number increased to 105 cases. Of those, 17 of those came to an informal resolution or were withdrawn.
And in just the first quarter of 2023, another 55 cases were looked into, none of which were dealt with informally.
The report came up with nine recommendations, foremost among them calling on the city's director of human resources to develop a "holistic and comprehensive" strategy for the workplace violence and harassment program.
Read the full report here: