CBC 'Failed' Its Employees in Handling of Jian Ghomeshi, Ousted Host

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Jian Ghomeshi records a live show at Aladdin Theater on April 24, 2014 in Portland, Oregon.

An anonymous hotline, reexamination of the executive producer role, and a "respect at work and human rights ombudsperson" were among the recommendations made to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) in a 52-page report, entitled "CBC Workplace Investigation Regarding Jian Ghomeshi," which found numerous failings in the way the public broadcaster handled the star radio host's behaviour and any complaints to superiors by staff.

"Indeed, we believe that management's failure to effectively deal with Mr. Ghomeshi's behaviour gave him license to continue," the report states.

Ghomeshi -- whose show was syndicated in the U.S. through Public Radio International -- was fired on Oct. 26, 2014, after allegations of sexual violence surfaced in the media and Ghomeshi himself reportedly showed his bosses video of a violent sexual act he said was consensual. He has since been charged with seven counts of sexual assault and one of overcoming resistance to choking. He has pled not guilty to all charges. 

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After his firing, on November 4, the CBC hired employment lawyers Janice Rubin and Parisa Nikfarjam of Rubin Thomlinson LLP to conduct an independent investigation into allegations of Ghomeshi's inappropriate behaviour and to prepare a report on how the public broadcaster handled such complaints when he worked for the CBC.  He hosted Play from 2002 to 2005 and Q from 2007.

The report calls the environment a "host culture" where its stars are coddled and not held accountable for any abusive or inappropriate behaviour. Instead, staff are left to deal with the problem on their own.

The report covers a range of behaviours by Ghomeshi from yelling, belittling and ignoring staff to giving colleagues back and shoulder massages and sharing too much information about his sex life.

"In some cases, managers with whom Mr. Ghomeshi was directly involved had an inclination that something was wrong, and failed to inquire any further or failed to take adequate steps to stop the behaviour," the report reads.

"In other cases, despite actual knowledge of concerns expressed by employees, Mr. Ghomeshi's behaviour was often left unexamined, characterized as 'difficult' or was accepted as the norm of how hosts were expected to behave. The evidence shows that while Mr. Ghomeshi's star was allowed to rise, his problematic behaviour was left unchecked. 

"To be clear, we did not find evidence that managers were aware of information relating to sexual harassment, or any complaints or allegations in that regard."

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While the report is marked "privileged and strictly confidential," "in the spirit of transparency," the CBC published the report in full, with some passages blocked out to protect those promised confidentiality.

"As a federally regulated entity, [the CBC] is subject to both the Canada Labour Code and the Canadian Human Rights Act," the report states. 

Ninety-nine people were interviewed for the report, the majority in person, and some by phone and Skype, including unionized employees, non-unionized managers, current and former CBC employees, former interns, as well as individuals who had no affiliation with the CBC past or present . Most had a "high degree of interest" in participating, the report notes. Seventeen people declined to participate -- including Ghomeshi.

The lawyers set out to determine if there were allegations and evidence of inappropriate behaviour on the part of Ghomeshi, relating "not only allegations of sexual harassment, but also allegations relating to the CBC's respect at work policies and provisions; and …If there were allegations/evidence of inappropriate behaviour on the part of Mr. Ghomeshi, were these allegations known to CBC management, and if so, what actions, if any, did it take in regard to these allegations/evidence? If they were unknown to CBC management, why were they unknown?"

"While some witnesses reported having no difficulty working with Mr. Ghomeshi, the majority of the witnesses who worked with him over the course of his career at the CBC described a pattern of behaviour and conduct that fell well below the Behavioural Standard. 

"Therefore, we have concluded that elements of Mr. Ghomeshi's workplace behaviour consistently breached the Behavioural Standard."

"Indeed, we believe that management's failure to effectively deal with Mr. Ghomeshi's behaviour gave him license to continue," the reports states. "In fact, over the course of his relationship with the CBC, while these behaviours continued, Mr. Ghomeshi's salary rose, and Q grew bigger with a larger staff, more shows on remote locations, and higher profile guests. 

"In our view, he took advantage of his powerful status and exploited those around him. In a word, his conduct was abusive, and it was directly contrary to the type of workplace the CBC promised to provide. 

"It is our conclusion that CBC failed to live up to its obligations to provide its employees a workplace that is free from disrespectful and abusive behaviour. It failed to take decisive steps to deal with Mr. Ghomeshi in the workplace. The actions taken by managers were ineffective, infrequent, and inconsistent. Indeed, this tacit acceptance of disrespectful and abusive behaviour that was contrary to the Behavioural Standard had the effect of condoning the behaviour."

Read the full report here.

Rapper Shad (full name Shadrach Kabango) has been hired as the new host of Q, which will debut April 20. Ghomeshi's next court appearance is April 28.