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Are employee rights ignored on Parliament Hill?

Parliament Hill is a workplace like no other. Staffers said in interviews that they are made to feel lucky to be employed there -- but dispensable. They say the power imbalance between members of Parliament and staffers causes violations of employee rights and the knowledge that reporting it could be detrimental to the staffer's future in politics. Some -- including staffers who are not based in Ottawa -- believe that the currency in that work environment is power.

The House's MP-staff harassment policy only became active in 2014, and staffers say sexual harassment was allowed until then, and although it is prohibited now, they believe the reporting policy exists only on paper. Some who claim to be victims of sexual abuse -- mostly unreported cases -- say employees on Parliament Hill are not protected by the Canada Labour Code like their private sector counterparts are. It is said that working on the Hill is a life in which there is a very fine line between work and parties and alcohol, making the prevalence of sexual harassment almost understandable.

Reporting sexual harassment is a complicated process in which abuse by a fellow staffer must be reported to the MP who employs that person. If that avenue seems inappropriate, the incident must be reported to the party whip who is responsible for the discipline in that party -- including the discipline of MPs. Another option is to file a report with the chief human resources officer of the House.

From the reports of alleged victims of sexual harassment on Parliament Hill -- from both Ottawa and elsewhere -- it is clearly a challenging issue. Many victims fear to lose their jobs if they go public with allegations. However, any person who has been subjected to such abuse at work is entitled to retain the services of an experienced labour law attorney who can advocate for them in fighting to protect their employee rights.

Source: hilltimes.com, "Parliament has a power problem: why few staffers report sexual harassment", Chelsea Nash, April 19, 2017

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