Sexual Harassment and Racial Taunts in Hospital

Stacey Walker, a 28-year old medical imaging technologist, claims that she was the object of sexual harassment, racial taunts and other abuses from September 2008, when she started working at the Toronto Western Hospital, part of the University Health Network (UHN).

After Ms. Walker confided in fellow employees, reports circulated across the department and the abusive treatment continued. When she approached a senior human resources manager with her concerns, she was advised to take an online assertiveness training workshop, but no official action was taken to investigate the matter.

Walker was not helped to make a formal complaint until January 2010, when the UHN’s manager of workplace diversity, Jacqueline Silvera, began an investigation of the work environment and became aware of the situation. Silvera told Walker that not addressing matters would “continue to perpetuate the very poisoned work environment.” Interviews of 19 people and 61 hours of investigation resulted in a 38-page report confirming that “there was no outreach to any of the departments that could have helped in dealing with” the complaints.

When news of the official investigation became known, the harassment recommenced and Walker was granted an indefinite paid leave. The UHN later rejected her request to return to work at alternate UHN imaging sites in downtown Toronto, claiming that she lacked the requisite skills.

According to UHN President Robert Bell, the matter will be concluded in the coming weeks with possible disciplinary action and efforts to ‘heal and counsel’ department staff. Walker has since been offered the option to leave with three months’ pay, or to reclaim her position in the department. She has decided not to return to her job.

Although Walker spoke out, hoping to make a difference in the way the UHN handles workplace complaints, she later concluded: “If I had known it would be this bad, I would have suffered in silence. I was the victim and now they’re treating me like I’m the problem, and they want to get rid of me. If they handled the sex assault properly, the other incidents would never have happened.”

For more details on this story, please see: The Toronto Star (Hospital worker was taunted, sexually harassed, by Michele Henry, June 21 2010).

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