OTTAWA – An independent investigation has cleared Green party leader Elizabeth May over allegations of workplace harassment, the party said Thursday.
It said the third-party investigator found the accusations against the leader to be without merit.
The probe by lawyer Sheila Block, a partner with Toronto law firm Torys LLP, began in January after three former party employees accused May of bullying. They said May yelled at and insulted employees and created a hostile work environment.
May vehemently denied the allegations at the time and insisted she’s “not a bully.”
“I am consistently opposed to bullying. I’ve stood up to bullying numerous times,” May told reporters after the accusations were revealed.
She asked for the investigation.
Rob Rainer, one of the accusers, was interim director of the party for seven months in 2014. Rainer said in January there had been four or five instances where he was verbally abused or harassed by May, including being “disparaged” by her in front of colleagues. Rainer said he came forward with his experiences because he heard other staffers were being bullied.
The party was quick to defend May and said she was being held to a different standard than male leaders. “A man with these qualities is admired for his leadership,” the party wrote in a statement. “A woman is portrayed as overbearing and bullying. These outdated gender stereotypes have no place in 21st century Canada.”
Block’s team interviewed two of the three complainants, as well as May and a number of other individuals as part of the investigation. Block also reviewed documents relevant to the complaints, emails and personal files and concluded that the allegations did not constitute workplace harassment.
In an executive summary, she said that in her interview with Rainer, he made nine allegations of workplace harassment against May, seven of which involved allegations of harassment against him. Block’s team determined that Rainer and May did not like each other or work well together.
Block’s team found that seven of Rainer’s complaints did not constitute workplace harassment and the others fell outside the investigation’s mandate.
Vanessa Brustolin, another of the accusers, said she did not participate in the investigation.
“The Green party of Canada would never have commissioned a report which would have been unfavourable to Elizabeth May. The Green party of Canada is Elizabeth May,” Brustolin wrote in a statement.
Brustolin said the report made no mention of her job performance and cited tension between her and her superior, to whom she complained about May.
Diana Nunes, the second accuser who was interviewed, did not bring forward specific allegations of harassment and instead raised concerns about May’s treatment of others and general issues with the party.
The party says the investigation is closed and the full report will remain confidential because it identifies individuals not party to the complaints.