Call it a job perk? As a workplace investigator, I not infrequently get questions from friends, family, people I’ve just met, about whether Situation XYZ may be an example of discrimination and/or harassment. A recent discussion about digital blackface led me to think of other possible examples of how anti-Black stereotypes and microaggressions can manifest in the modern workplace.
In Ontario, where I work, we have just entered stage 2 of re-opening the economy, which includes allowing people to return to workplaces that have thus far been closed. Even if a business was deemed essential, and employees continued to work remotely, now that things are “thawing” we anticipate that more employees will return to the physical workplace.
We are living in a time when racism and racial discrimination are at the fore globally. The world is being awakened to an issue that is by no means new but has not necessarily received sufficient attention. There is now a global call for radical institutional and systemic changes which acknowledge the equality of racialized persons. While the focus is in many cases on the justice system, it is imperative that the systemic changes, if they are to be effective, must permeate to the core of every society at all levels, including the workplace.
I was actually going to write this blog last fall but it seems even more timely now. I have done a number of investigations in the past year where some of the allegations and evidence concerned conversations on various instant messaging platforms: Slack, Microsoft Teams and WhatsApp. While I seem to have developed a sub-specialty with investigations in the Tech sector, I confess that the first time a party spoke to me of Slack, I was somewhat clueless.
I find it amazing what we, as human beings, have had to do in the last week to adapt to the realities of living with COVID-19. I am so impressed, for example, by how some small businesses have been able to quickly change how they deliver their goods and services so that they can survive and how customers have embraced and supported this. I am equally impressed that office employees have rolled up their sleeves and found new ways to communicate with one another to “get the job done” and that offices with hundreds of workers are able to operate remotely.
This is the first in a series of blogs that I will be writing on workplace whistleblowing. There is not a lot of practical information available on the topic and I want to help shed some light on how employers can be better prepared to deal with employees who blow the whistle.
I am somewhat of an anomaly in that I have a lot of hands-on experience with this subject matter. I have managed whistleblowing programs, conducted intake interviews with whistleblowers and investigated alleged wrongdoing disclosed by whistleblowers.
For this blog, I thought that a good place to start would be to provide general information about workplace whistleblowing given that it is a topic that is foreign to many.
Lorsque j’étais membre du Tribunal des droits de la personne de l’Ontario, j’ai présidé à une audience qui se déroulait en anglais où une des parties désirait être identifiée par le pronom « they ». Et si l’audience s’était déroulée en français? Est-ce qu’il y a un terme correspondant? On le sait, la langue française n’est pas neutre; tout est forcément féminin ou masculin.
French is not a gender-neutral language, which presents added challenges when referring to individuals who identify as non-binary. There is no corresponding term to “they” in French. As noted by the Ontario Human Rights Commission, deliberately misusing pronouns can be a form of discrimination under the Human Rights Code.
One of my most embarrassing moments occurred in high school when I had dinner with a friend, whose grandmother was visiting from Iran. She had made us a wonderful meal, and because she didn’t speak any English I tried to convey my gratitude with two enthusiastic thumbs up. She gave me a shocked look and ran out of the room, while my friend and her parents dissolved into horrified giggles. Apparently, the “thumbs up” gesture does not mean the same thing throughout the world.