Workplace harassment is alive and well within the offices of the federal government. Of public servants who took part in a comprehensive survey, 28% report having been victims of various forms of harassment over the past two years. This is the highest level in a decade.
Women, visible minorities, aboriginal people and persons with disabilities who work for the government report higher rates of harassment. This harassment, physical or psychological, is usually inflicted by bosses or colleagues, according to the survey.
""The impact, the consequences are tragic for the person experiencing this harassment," says Eric Gosselin, Professor in occupational psychology at the University of Quebec in the Outaouais. He adds that such situations lead to long-term absences which are costly to the employer.
According to Mr. Gosselin, harassment in the federal public service is no better or worse than elsewhere else.
An admission of failure say unions
Since 2001 the federal government has had a policy to prevent and resolve cases of harassment. However, to the unions, the results of this latest employee survey demonstrate that these methods are not working.
"Often, we see that there is a toxic working environment where you cannot work productively. There is often much more sick leave," says vice-president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, Patty Ducharme.
The federal government reiterates that harassment and discrimination at work are not tolerated and that mechanisms are in place to assist employees who are victims.