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FORMER EMPLOYEE OF CONCORDIA RADIO STATION FILED SYSTEMIC SEXISM COMPLAINT WITH CANADIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION


UPDATE - October 12, 2017
A settlement was reached to the satisfaction of both parties on October 11, 2017, before the Canadian Human Rights Commission.


Montreal, April 25, 2017 — A female employee of CJLO, Concordia University’s campus radio station, who believed she was abruptly fired due to systemic gender bias at work, has filed a complaint with federal authorities for wrongful dismissal and for gender-based discrimination in employment.

Ellen is a Master’s student at Concordia University. She was an employee at CJLO from January 2015 to November 2016, a radio station operated by the Concordia Student Broadcasting Corporation (CSBC). She held the position of Promotions, Sponsorship and Funding Director.

Ellen's performance in her position at CJLO was successful, shown in records of funding and revenue. A few months prior to November 2016, she was given a “great performance review” and offered a cash bonus for her work during almost five months without a full-time manager.

Ellen was fired without any prior notice or warning from her position on November 1, 2016. The reason given for her dismissal was that her employer no longer wanted a student in the directing position she was in, which, according to CSBC, was “bringing down volunteer morale” due to the amount of hours she was able to spend at the station.

During the meeting at which her dismissal was announced, Ellen was told that she was not informed about the mentioned issues prior to the immediate termination because she would have “cried about it”, as he had tried to “talk to her five times and she cried every time.” No dates or record of these alleged attempts were given and this was a complete surprise to her.

Ellen believes that the management style at CJLO has adverse effects on women because women are held to a higher performance standard, required to continuously prove themselves (while male colleagues are coached and given leeway to develop and pursue other projects), and, finally, concerns of female and queer employees are not taken seriously, such as the implementation of a “Safe Space” poster.

She also believes that one of the key factors leading to her abrupt dismissal is the tension between the station’s management and herself after she and many other staff and volunteers strongly advocated for a “Safe Space” poster to be put up in the station. Produced and promoted by the Concordia Student Union, the poster condemns sexism, racism, transphobia and oppression, and is prevalent at other locations on campus.

Even after an internal vote for the poster to be put up showed that an overwhelming number of volunteers and employee’s preferred having the poster displayed, management at CJLO rejected the vote, saying that it would “interfere” with the journalistic integrity of CJLO and would be “divisive.”

There were also other telling indications of a work environment marked by gender bias. Before Ellen’s termination, several male colleagues continued to belittle her position even after repeated requests for correction, downgrading her title from director to that of “coordinator.” It should be noted that she is older than many employees. During the period of her employment, most female employees were in “coordinator” positions instead of “director” and “manager” positions. Since the new Manager was hired, other female employees have been terminated from their jobs, had their contracts end or have left due to a lack of HR support.

Ellen was offered a termination agreement in November, which suggested conditional severance pay that she considered to be a way of buying her silence about the unfair termination. Yet severance pay is required by law. She was given four weeks of pay but Concordia University, which is officially listed as her employer, is now asking for two weeks of severance pay reimbursement from her.

Also, after her termination, Ellen was served with four different records of employment, all with their own mistakes, which has hindered her from filing for employment insurance. What is more surprising to her is that the employer listed in the ROE is Concordia University, whereas her employment contract was with CBSC.

The ordeal has created major mental and financial pressures on her and on her academic situation.

Her case was referred by the Concordia Student Union Legal Information Clinic to CRARR, which now assists her in her complaint of unjust dismissal with Employment and Social Development Canada, and her complaint of systemic sexism in employment with the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

Ellen hopes that speaking out about her experience will make a difference in the environment for volunteers and employees at the station. The complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission seeks, among other things, mandatory gender-based employment equity measures.