- by Anne Finlay-Stewart, Editor

It is 2023.

Surely by now we thought that men would know there were workplace consequences for suggestive comments, unwanted touching, and stalking on social media.

Apparently not.

After we shared publicly available information about the temporary closure to admissions at the 160-bed Southbridge Long-Term Care home in Owen Sound, we received messages from family members, residents and current and former employees.

The sexual harassment report stood out for a number of reasons.

Long-term care homes have a female-male-identifying staffing ratio of at least 10-1.

The young woman's experience of sexual harassment followed her from one Southbridge home to another, with harassment involving both a male co-worker and a supervisor, according to her reporting. It included stalking on social media, a pattern of inappropriate and suggestive comments and questions, and intimate touching, sometimes witnessed by co-workers. She says she reported it to a number of managers, her union and eventually to the Executive Director – a conversation she recorded and shared with us. Finally she felt she had no alternative but to leave the residents she cared about and take a job elsewhere.

Smithcom, Southbridge's Reputation Management firm, forwarded the following response from Judy Plummer, Vice President - Operations.

Southbridge is a company of high integrity. We are in the business of caring for people, so we take these types of allegations seriously. When we recently became aware of the allegations, we immediately launched a multi-faceted internal investigation.  We have connected with the individual to begin the process and have also offered support through an Employee Assistance Program to discuss the concerns with a third-party.  The former employee initially reported the concerns to the home's Executive Director, who is no longer with the company.

We have certainly learned that the pages of “career opportunities” at local care facilities are not simply a result of the same labour and housing shortages or low wages impacting many industries. There is an emotional toll for caring for vulnerable people in a crisis of pandemic, moving, understaffing and ownership/leadership turnover. If staff also feel they are being bullied, harassed or unsupported in the workplace, the situation is sending otherwise caring women into retirement, self-employment or other careers.

Build all the “beds” you want, Mr. Ford. Without sufficient caregivers, the crisis will only get worse.

(If you are experiencing sexual harassment in any workplace, this is a great resource.)


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