Coroner reminds employers to address workplace bullying

Suicide of one workers was a result of workplace bullying, psychiatrist notes, according to coroner’s report

Coroner reminds employers to address workplace bullying

One coroner is reminding employers of their responsibility to ensure workers’ wellbeing in the workplace.

This comes after an inquest heard from a psychiatrist that one city worker in Montreal took his own life as a result of being bullied and isolated at work.

“Several coroners’ reports concern suicides caused by conflicts at work,” coroner Julie Blondin wrote in a report dated Oct. 16 about the death of Silvio Pietrangelo, according to a report from the Montreal Gazette.

“It is also a social issue that needs to be addressed.”

Nine per cent of doctors have had suicidal thoughts but have never attempted to take their own life while about one per cent have attempted suicide, according to a previous report.

On April 12, 2021, 49-year-old Pietrangelo, committed suicide. He was a father of two who had worked for the city of Côte-St-Luc as a plumber and was a member of the municipal blue-collar union for about eight years.

According to the coroner’s report, in 2015 and 2016, a family doctor and a psychiatrist Pietrangelo consulted at the request of his employer found he was suffering from an adjustment disorder, anxiety and depression “in the context of workplace harassment”.

Pietrangelo went on a leave from his job at the time.

And the psychiatrist “specified that the work context was at the origin of Mr. Pietrangelo’s condition,” according to the report.

With the help of a psychologist and a reintegration counsellor, the city government encouraged Pietrangelo to return to work in the summer of 2016, according to the Montreal Gazette.

In the years following his return, however, Pietrangelo experienced some trouble in the workplace. In February 2018, filed a complaint with the Montreal police about two incidents at work. In one incident, he cited a meeting with a superior during which Pietrangelo perceived certain of his superior’s comments as threatening. 

He later dropped his complaint after he was relocated to another building and no longer had contact with the same colleagues, according to the report.

In March 2021, he complained to Côte-St-Luc’s director of human resources that he was being excluded from morning work meetings. His doctor “diagnosed depression linked to recurrent threats and isolation at work,” according to the report. 

He was placed back on sick leave and started on antidepressant medication. However, he soon stopped medication due to side effects and after discussion with his pharmacist, the report said.

Pietrangelo was scheduled for a followup medical appointment on April 14, but he took his own life two days before that. A day before his death, he told his family that he planned to quit his job.

Here’s why workplace harassment and bullying is a safety issue.

Côte-St-Luc Mayor Mitchell Brownstein, on Wednesday, said the city had not yet received the coroner’s report. He, however, vowed to look into the matter. 

“We will obviously review it carefully,” he wrote in an email to the Montreal Gazette.

“The city has a zero tolerance policy for harassment, whether staff or the public. We also have a clear procedure so that when someone makes a complaint, our internal committee investigates it.”