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Privy Council Office launches workplace probe of Governor General’s office amid harassment claims

Privy Council Office launches workplace probe of Governor General’s office amid harassment claims

The Privy Council Office (PCO) has launched what it calls a “thorough, independent and impartial” workplace probe into claims of harassment and verbal abuse in the office of Gov. Gen. Julie Payette.

The investigation follows a CBC News report that quoted unnamed sources saying Payette has created a toxic environment at Rideau Hall by verbally harassing employees to the point where some have been reduced to tears or left the office altogether.

A dozen sources with direct knowledge of the office during Payette’s mandate told CBC News the Governor General has yelled at, belittled and publicly humiliated employees. They accuse her of throwing tantrums in the office and, on one occasion, tossing an employee’s work aside and calling it “shit.”

Sources also accused Payette’s secretary and longtime friend, Assunta Di Lorenzo, of harassing employees — calling some “lazy” and “incompetent.”

“Harassment has no place in any professional workplace,” PCO spokesperson Stéphane Shank said in the statement. “It is a public service priority to advance efforts to more effectively prevent and resolve issues of harassment.”

The PCO statement said the Governor General’s office is part of the core public service and is subject to Treasury Board policies, which include a policy against harassment.

PCO said the office is establishing the “terms of reference” of the review and will immediately take steps to hire an independent third party to conduct it.

Payette said in a statement she welcomes an independent review.

“I am deeply concerned with the media reports regarding the Office of the Governor General and I am completely committed to ensuring that every employee who works at Rideau Hall enjoys a secure and healthy work environment at all times and under all circumstances,” Payette said. “I take harassment and workplace issues very seriously.”

Earlier Thursday, the head of a union representing civil service workers called for an independent examination of the employees’ claims.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) represents approximately 80 employees at Rideau Hall, including kitchen workers, cleaners, and maintenance and communications staff.

“Any claims of verbal abuse or harassment in the workplace are a top priority for the union to address,” said PSAC national president Chris Aylward.

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister’s Office said in an emailed statement that Justin Trudeau takes the issue very seriously.

“Harassment in the workplace is unacceptable under any circumstance and our government is committed to ensuring a safe work environment for all federal employees,” said PMO spokesperson Alex Wellstead.

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