October 03, 2019
Respectful Workplace Audit
Originally published March 8, 2018.
An authoritarian style has characterized management in the film and television industry. From the industry’s beginning, many of the roles held by DGC members have been dominated by men, who are sometimes seen as being part of a boys’ club. Macho behaviour, including using foul and sexualized language and aggressive shows of ego, is commonplace and can lead to abusive behaviour, such as berating and demeaning subordinates, being accepted as normal. For workers who are free-lancers and compete for jobs in a precarious industry, complaining is generally seen as “being a problem” and can easily lead to being fired or not being hired in the future. In this environment, it is not surprising that reports of bullying are widespread. Women are especially vulnerable to unwanted sexual advances, comments and touching. In other cases, the sexualized name-calling, groping or assaults can be used to “put women in their place” and make them feel unwelcome in the workplace.
When high profile cases of harassment were called out in the industry, the National Executive Board (NEB) of the DGC quickly resolved to work with other industry partners to tackle the issues. The DGC named Kendrie Upton of the DGC BC to head up efforts, and the Guild immediately participated in cross-industry discussions following the allegations of courageous women in the industry who launched the #MeToo campaign, including the #AfterMeToo discussions and the formation of several working groups.
In parallel, the NEB adopted a resolution (with the support of the Guild’s District Councils) to audit its own policies and practices to protect members from harassment and sexual misconduct. The DGC retained Daina Green to conduct a Listening Tour. Over 100 DGC members responded to the call to participate. Days in each city for in-person interviews were limited, but more than 60 DGC members in BC, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario and Atlantic Canada made themselves available to describe their workplace experiences in person. The audit also collected recommendations from members, staff and leaders on ways to improve the climate and create more respectful workplaces. The audit included a review of existing policies and practices inside and outside the DGC as well as legislation related to legal avenues available to workers who have experienced workplace harassment or sexual harassment in jurisdictions across the country.
While the members who participated in the Listening Tour were self-selected and cannot be considered a representative sample, their reports were very consistent across districts and categories.
- Most participants reported experiencing or witnessing harassing behaviour on a job. Members report being the object of humiliating comments in front of others, foul language and cursing directed at them, or objects thrown in anger. Many women and some men also report recent sexual misconduct ranging from inappropriate comments of a sexual nature to assault by members of other unions, producers, and other DGC members.
- A number of incidents of sexual assault occurring in the workplace or in places under the employer’s purview were related during the Listening Tour. Most of these reported assaults took place more than five years ago. However, even for most recent incidents, members chose not to report them to the Guild, the employer or the police due to lack of confidence in the process.
- A culture of fear of reprisal and belief that such behaviour will go unpunished prevails. Members express a belief that complaining can result in being fired or passed over for future job opportunities, with the reason for not being hired being almost impossible to prove. This applies also to members who witness bullying or harassment of others.
- Staff and elected leaders are highly aware of the prevalence of the issue and are hoping to gain access to additional training and resources to be able to address member allegations more effectively.
- Most members believe the Guild can and should do more to protect them and feel that the Guild has taken a very positive step by initiating the Listening Tour and requesting recommendations. Some express scepticism that the Guild will take effective action.
- Members working in supervisory roles express a lack of comfort or confidence in dealing effectively with allegations of harassment.
- The Respectful Workplace training developed by Natasha Tony of IATSE 891, which has been customized and rolled out in many districts, is highly praised by members and staff for its effectiveness in raising awareness about appropriate and inappropriate behaviour at work.
- There were few reports of overt racist behaviour, although racialized members who came to Canada from elsewhere reported that their previous experience was not valued and that it was very difficult to “break into” work through the Guild. There was one report of objectionable comments made about Indigenous people during a film shoot in the north. Regrettably, no members participating in the Listening Tour identified themselves as Indigenous, possibly due to a lack of specific outreach.
The Guild has taken many positive steps to address the issues experienced by members on the job, but the Guild alone cannot bring about the change in workplace culture that is necessary to end harassment, bullying and sexual misconduct in the workplace. Members praise the professionalism of DGC staff in supporting them when they report harassing behaviour. But given the multiple groups of workers and layers of management involved, and the fact that free-lancers can never be fully protected from the silent reprisal of not being called for future work, there is no quick fix. The following recommendations are an attempt to “put our arms around” the problem, by offering measures to all parties that will support members, staff and employers in preventing harassment and resolving complaints expeditiously, and above all, fairly.
Content on respectful workplace and psychological safety to be added to on-set safety talks (including development of “canned” content that all members in supervisory roles can deliver easily)
Clear definitions of harassment and related inappropriate behaviour; development of information sheet for workplace posting of responsibilities and rights
Training for staff on handling of allegations of harassment
Mandatory training for those in management roles, and for those advancing through categories, on their legal responsibility to maintain a harassment free workplace, how to identify harassment and inappropriate behaviour, and what to do if such behaviour is observed or reported
HR services hired at arms-length on behalf of all industry partners and funded by producers to support union/Guild staff, members, and those in management roles, including reception of complaints, and guidance on handling of complaints, training, investigation, mediation and resolution, including restorative justice where appropriate
Establish a peer support program and enhance the Guild’s mentoring program(s)
Provide a single hotline across the country (one-stop) to receive complaints and requests for intervention or information relating to inappropriate behaviour and harassment
Explore web-based information escrow applications such as SafeSpace software to preserve documentation of incidents and allow complainants to identify common harassers (more information and links in body of report and Appendix C)