Workplace Bullying had a devastating affect on my Mental Health

As this is Bell’s Let’s Talk Day devoted to Mental Health and as the NY Times is embarking on a campaign to give a voice to truth I have chosen to post part of my story dealing with two severe mental health illnesses caused by the bullying I was subjected to at Surrey Place Centre — a provincially funded agency in Ontario.

I recently was appointed to the Board of Directors for a LHIN and as it is an appointment through the provincial Executive Council I had to complete a ‘Personal Conflict of Interest’ document which included the question: “Have you been involved in any issue or controversy in the past, or that may be subject to public review in the future, in which the government may have an interest?” and my reply “ I filed a formal notice of wrongdoing with the Board of Directors for Surrey Place Centre, a provincially funded agency in February of 2015 and was subsequently denied accommodation, bullied and then fired. I am the complainant in a Human Rights case with a hearing date scheduled for January 2018.”

As part of my human rights submission I included components required for a ‘Tort of Harassment’ and its first test is that a ‘reasonable person would find the statement outrageous’

(a) Was the conduct of the employer toward the employee outrageous?

Surrey Place Centre terminated my employment for refusing to go against medical directives and come into a physical location when I had successfully demonstrated I could complete all of my job responsibilities working from home. At the time I was fired, the organization was aware that I had been to a specialist and was awaiting an appointment to pick up the report, the report indicated that I was suffering from two severe mental illnesses in addition to the medical condition that prompted the need for accommodation. This is all the more outrageous as over the ten years that I had worked for the organization I had put in considerable overtime despite being shortchanged on wages, was off sick for no more ten days in total, volunteered at numerous fundraising and client events and represented the organization in leadership roles on regional and provincial committees.”

The Background

I was persecuted at work for bringing forward concerns about inappropriate spending of funds that were intended for client service for individuals with autism and developmental disabilities. I was threatened on three occasions including that ‘I would be wise not to antagonize senior staff’; when he announced his retirement in December 2014 my boss urged me to be rational and seek a package as he wouldn’t be there to be a ‘buffer between me and senior staff’. While that seemed grossly unfair, I had had enough and felt I couldn’t continue to compromise my health so filed for constructive dismissal and was refused. With no choice but to return to the poisonous work environment I filed a Formal Notice of Wrongdoing with the Board of Directors citing concerns over financial wrongdoing and unsafe working conditions. When the Board of Directors reneged on its promise to investigate ‘all the ethical concerns’ in my letter I filed my human rights complaint and I wrote to the Premier of Ontario and the Ministers alerting them to the damage that had been done to my mental health and asking for an investigation and assistance, I received no reply. I wrote again in June 2016 and the response was that there was an investigation and appropriate actions taken; I wasn’t interviewed, nothing changed and they refuse to produce a report. I’ve written numerous times and have asked the Premier to step up and fulfill her vow to made in March 2015 to strengthen legislation and ensure investigations into work harassment and her more recent statements about ‘shining’ a light on misconduct thereby fulfilling her oath of office.

There is legislation clearly being violated — starting with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom and including the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act which clearly states that employees have a right to a workplace free from harassment. In my case currently before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario I have provided evidence of violations of five elements in the Human Rights Code of Ontario. The lawyer currently defending the bullies is paid for with provincial tax dollars.

I posted on my LinkedIn site sometime ago that I believe Ontario is on the verge of an ethical collapse and I’m now concerned the country is as well.

When the Prime Minister Trudeau apologized to the LGBQT community he said “The number one job of any government is to keep its citizens safe”. I wrote to the Prime Minister and appealed for his protection and his Executive Correspondence Officer R. Olshansky replied that while they ‘sympathized with my situation’ there was nothing they would do.

Referencing a federal study about workplace harassment, the Prime Minister said “This is something that affects all of us and we need to realize that harassment, intimidation in any workplace, in any place in this country is unacceptable and needs to stop.”

Another quote of the Prime Minister, this time at the town hall in Hamilton “I want all of you to continue to be angry and frustrated that a Canadian government had to make that settlement,” he said. “Take it as a lesson that in the future. No Canadian government should ever think it’s OK to allow a Canadian, no matter how unpopular they may be, to be tortured. That is not how we do things in Canada.”

By ‘sympathizing’ and refusing to get involved it appears that the Prime Minister is saying that in Canada it’s okay to bully in the workplace. There needs to be a #BulliedToo movement — the statistics depicting workplace issues that damage workers’ mental health are staggering.