Q&A: Gail Lynn Gatchalian on the pervasiveness of workplace sexual harassment
February 10, 201710 February 2017
On March 8, 2017, coinciding with International Women’s Day, the CBA will release its new “Not Just a Bystander” Podcast, which is presented by the Women Lawyers Forum in collaboration with various CBA National Sections and the CCCA. This new podcast builds off of the Forum’s recent #WriteYourWrong campaign, through which individuals were encouraged to anonymously submit stories of their encounters with sexual assault and sexual harassment in the workplace, and strives to continue the discussion on this important issue and examine what lawyers, clients, and the community can do to fix this problem.
As part of a weekly series leading up to the release of the podcast, we’ve spoken with each of the podcast’s panelists about their efforts to end sexual harassment and violence. This week’s Q&A is with Gail Lynn Gatchalian, a lawyer and workplace investigator at Pink Larkin in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She is also the Vice Chair of the National Labour and Employment Law Section of the Canada Bar Association.
National: As a lawyer and workplace investigator, what proportion of your clients has experienced sexual harassment and assault in the workplace?
Gail Lynn Gatchalian: A large proportion of the cases I investigate involve complaints of sexual harassment.
N: Is there a theme that is most prevalent amongst the complaints you receive?
GLG: A prevalent theme is a failure of the organization to act quickly, and by the time of the investigation, so much harm has been done that it may be difficult for the complainant and the workplace to recover.
N: Do you feel that Canadian law is well adapted to responding to the issue of sexual harassment and assault in the workplace?
GLG: Canadian law is not well-adapted to doing so because it is based on the complaint-investigation-discipline model and does little to ensure required cultural change in workplaces.
N: As a lawyer, what else do you think still needs to be done to get to the root of this problem?
GLG: We must focus more on prevention, on building healthy, respectful workplaces.
N: Why was it important for you to be involved in this podcast?
GLG: Despite increased legal regulation, workplace sexual harassment is pervasive and destructive, and things may only get worse since the U.S. election and the example that leaders are setting there. The law can only take us so far. We need to learn how to transform workplaces and relationships from people like psychologist Dr. Harry Stefanakis and from programs such as the “Be More Than A Bystander” Program, a partnership between the BC Lions and the Ending Violence Association of BC that aims to encourage people to speak up to prevent violence against women and girls.