Rescinded [2012-09-30] - Policy on Prevention and Resolution of Harassment in the Workplace

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Preamble

As the employer of the federal Public Service, the Treasury Board is committed to providing a work environment where all persons working for the Public Service are treated with respect and dignity. Bargaining agents are also supportive of this and involved in initiatives to promote such an environment.

Harassment affects workplace and individual well-being and will not be tolerated. This policy aims to prevent harassment by promoting increased awareness, early problem resolution and the use of mediation. The application of this policy will help create a work environment where all are treated with respect and dignity. It will not only promote the well-being of all in the workplace, but it will reinforce those values of integrity and trust that are the foundation of a sound organization.

Dealing with harassment can be a complex matter. What one person may consider to be proper behaviour, another may believe to be harassment. Note that the proper exercise of one's authority or responsibility does not generally constitute harassment. The Appendix provides some examples for better understanding.

The Canadian Human Rights Act provides every person in the workplace the right to freedom from harassment based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, disability and pardoned conviction. These are referred to as prohibited grounds.

The Treasury Board policy goes beyond these requirements by addressing other types of workplace harassment such as harassment of a general nature not related to the grounds prohibited under the Canadian Human Rights Act, including rude, degrading or offensive remarks or e-mails, threats or intimidation.

The policy promotes the prevention of harassment and focuses on the prompt resolution of harassment. Whether the source of harassment comes from within the Public Service or from outside, any allegation of harassment is serious and should be taken seriously. Harassment needs to be addressed with sensitivity, promptness and discretion. Open communication and early intervention are essential in preventing and resolving harassment.

Effective date

The effective date of this policy is June 1, 2001.

Policy objective

The purpose of this policy is to foster a respectful workplace through the prevention and prompt resolution of harassment.

Policy statement

Harassment in the workplace is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. All persons working for the Public Service, whether or not they are employees, should enjoy a harassment-free workplace.

Application

This policy applies to all departments and organizations of the Public Service listed in Schedule I, Part I of the Public Service Staff Relations Act.

The complaint process as defined in this policy applies to federal public service employees. Though other persons who work for the Public Service cannot access the complaint process described in the policy, managers are nevertheless expected to abide by the spirit of the policy and ensure that their harassment concerns are addressed.

The policy does not apply to complaints from the public. The responsibility for follow-up on such complaints lies with departments/organizations.

Definitions

Harassment (harcèlement)
is any improper conduct by an individual, that is directed at and offensive to another person or persons in the workplace, and that the individual knew or ought reasonably to have known would cause offence or harm. It comprises any objectionable act, comment or display that demeans, belittles, or causes personal humiliation or embarrassment, and any act of intimidation or threat. It includes harassment within the meaning of the Canadian Human Rights Act.
Complaint (plainte)
is a formal allegation of harassment submitted in writing to the delegated manager, and which is based on actions defined as harassment.
Delegated manager (gestionnaire délégué)
is a senior executive designated by the deputy head, accountable for the harassment complaint process.
Mediation (médiation)
is a voluntary process used to resolve conflict by having a neutral person help the disputing parties arrive at a mutually acceptable solution.

Policy requirements

  • Deputy heads are responsible for fostering a work environment free of harassment.
  • All employees must be informed of this policy.
  • Learning opportunities related to the Policy on the Prevention and Resolution of Harassment in the Workplace must be made available to employees and managers/supervisors.
  • Employees must be informed of the name or title and address of the delegated manager (s) in his or her department/organization.
  • Early resolution should be used to resolve problems at the outset.
  • Mediation must be offered before an investigation is initiated.
  • The complaint process, including the investigation if necessary, should be completed without undue delay, normally in six months or less.
  • Corrective action must be timely in all situations of harassment, whether it involves employees or other persons working for the Public Service.
  • Harassment may result in corrective or disciplinary measures being taken, up to and including termination of employment. Disciplinary or corrective measures may also be taken against the following: any manager who is aware of a harassment situation and who fails to take corrective action; anyone who interferes with the resolution of a complaint by threats, intimidation or retaliation; or anyone who files a complaint that is frivolous or in bad faith.
  • If a complaint of harassment is determined at the departmental level to be unfounded, and is pursued in the courts or at a tribunal, the respondent's department/organization will provide legal assistance to the respondent.
  • Departments/organizations must meet the requirements of this policy.

Responsibility and authority

The ultimate responsibility and authority for applying this policy rests with the deputy head and his or her authorized representative(s).

Expectations

Employees

  1. Employees are expected to act towards other individuals professionally and respectfully.
  2. Employees who believe they have been treated in an improper and offensive manner are expected to communicate to the offending party, as soon as possible, directly or through a supervisor/manager, their disapproval or unease. They can get help or guidance from the supervisor, the person designated by the department/organization, or the union.
  3. They can expect to be informed of the Treasury Board policy.
  4. They can expect prompt action if they report an incident of harassment to their supervisor/manager or if necessary, to another appropriate manager.
  5. They can expect to be treated without fear of embarrassment or reprisal when dealing with a harassment situation or involved in the resolution of a complaint.
  6. They will be encouraged to participate in a problem resolution process before proceeding with the complaint process.

Complainants, respondents and witnesses

  1. Complainants, respondents and witnesses are expected to provide information as required in the steps noted below under "Complaint process".
  2. They are expected to co-operate in the complaint process if and when called upon to do so.
  3. They are expected to limit the discussion of the complaint to those who need to know.
  4. They can expect to review their statement as recorded by the investigator, to confirm its accuracy, prior to the final report being submitted.
  5. Complainants and respondents will receive information related to the complaint in writing, including allegations, as noted in the steps below, under "Complaint process", and in accordance with the principles of procedural fairness.
  6. Complainants and respondents may have with them, during meetings and interviews related to the resolution of the complaint, a person of their choice who has agreed to accompany them and who is not a party to the process.
  7. Complainants and respondents can expect to review a copy of the draft report. They will be informed in writing of the outcome of the investigation and will receive a copy of the final report.
  8. If the complaint is founded, complainants will be informed verbally whether corrective or disciplinary measures will be taken as a result of their complaint.
  9. If the complaint is frivolous or in bad faith, respondents will be informed verbally whether corrective or disciplinary measures will be taken.
  10. Respondents will receive legal assistance if a harassment complaint, filed in accordance with this policy and determined at the departmental level to be unfounded, is pursued in the courts or at a tribunal.

Managers

  1. Managers are expected to lead by example and to act respectfully in dealings with employees and other persons working for the Public Service.
  2. They can expect to have access to learning opportunities on the prevention and resolution of harassment and in conflict resolution.
  3. They are expected to ensure that employees are aware of the policy and to remind them of its contents as deemed necessary.
  4. They are expected to ensure that employees have access to learning opportunities on the prevention and resolution of harassment in the workplace.
  5. They are expected to intervene promptly when they become aware of improper or offensive conduct and to involve the parties in resolving the problem.
  6. They are expected to address any alleged harassment of which they are aware, whether or not a complaint has been made. This applies to situations that involve employees as well as other persons working for the Public Service.
  7. They are expected to handle all harassment situations confidentially and to ensure that others act accordingly.
  8. They are expected to address the needs of the parties concerned and the working unit following a complaint with the assistance of a specialist as needed, in order to establish or re-establish harmonious working relationships.

Delegated managers

  1. Delegated managers are expected to be impartial in any complaint process in which they are involved.
  2. They can expect to have access to learning opportunities related to their role and responsibilities as delegated managers.
  3. They are expected to apply the established steps in the complaint process.
  4. They are expected to take the necessary action to ensure the confidentiality of complaints.
  5. They are expected to ensure that both complainants and respondents have access to support and advice during any resolution process associated with the complaint.
  6. They are expected to offer mediation and to ensure that the mediator or co-mediators meet the requirements of the Shared Mediators Program for Cases of Harassment or Conflict in the Workplace;
  7. They are expected to separate the complainant and respondent, hierarchically, physically, or both, for the duration of the complaint process, if they deem it necessary;
  8. They are expected to assign a mandate to the investigator(s) and ensure that persons conducting investigations are qualified in accordance with the Competencies Profile for Internal and External Harassment Investigators, that they are impartial, that they have no supervisory relationship with the parties, and that they are not in a position of conflict of interest.
  9. They are expected to ensure that corrective and/or disciplinary measures are taken, where warranted.
  10. They are expected to ensure that no documents relating to the harassment complaint are placed in the personnel file of either party, other than a disciplinary letter in the file of the employee who is subject to a disciplinary measure.
  11. They are expected to ensure that parties are provided with the information to which they are entitled.

Investigators

  1. Investigators are expected to meet the requirements as outlined in the Competencies Profile for Internal and External Harassment Investigators.
  2. They are expected to apply the principles of procedural fairness.
  3. They are expected to abide by their assigned mandate.

Early problem resolution

The objective of early resolution is to resolve any situation or conflict as soon as possible, in a fair and respectful manner without having to resort to the complaint process. Every effort should be made to resolve the problem early with open communication and in a co-operative manner. The use of problem resolution mechanisms such as coaching, counselling and facilitation can in many instances resolve the issue and prevent the situation from escalating to the point where filing a complaint is necessary. An allegation of harassment is serious. If a person working for the Public Service believes that he or she has been harassed, the following actions should be taken.

The person who feels offended by the actions of another person working for the Public Service is encouraged to make it known to that person as soon as possible in an attempt to resolve the problem.

If the problem is not resolved or if the offended person does not want to speak directly with the other, the offended person should meet with his or her supervisor, or with another manager, or seek advice from the person who is designated by their department/organization to provide information on harassment, in an attempt to find a solution and resolve the problem.

Management must make every effort to resolve the issue between the parties as quickly as possible, if necessary with the assistance of a resource person.

Complaint process

The complaint process applies to federal public service employees. Other persons working for the Public Service who believe they have been harassed may report the incident to their supervisor/manager, or, if necessary, to another appropriate manager who will address the situation and take appropriate action.

If early resolution is not successful or is not deemed appropriate, an employee may file a complaint with the delegated manager. All steps should be completed without undue delay, normally in six months or less. Departments must establish time frames appropriate to their particular organizations, in consultation with their union officials.

When dealing with complaints, requirements of the Official Languages Act must be taken into account.

The sharing of information related to the harassment complaint with the parties must comply with the principles of privacy and access to information legislation.

Step 1 - Filing a complaint

The complainant submits a complaint in writing to the delegated manager, or to the next person in the hierarchy if the delegated manager is the subject of the complaint, within one year of the alleged harassment leading to the complaint. The complaint must include the nature of the allegations; the name of the respondent; the relationship of the respondent to the complainant (e.g., supervisor, colleague); the date and a description of the incident(s); and, if applicable, the names of witnesses. The information provided should be as precise and concise as possible.

Step 2 - Screening and acknowledgement of complaint

Upon receipt of the complaint, the delegated manager screens and acknowledges receipt of the complaint. The criteria used in the screening are that the complaint:

  • must be filed within one year of the alleged harassment leading to the complaint, unless there are extenuating circumstances; and
  • must include the information noted in Step 1.

If these criteria are met, the delegated manager informs the respondent that a complaint has been received and provides him/her with the particulars of the complaint in writing, including the allegations.

If these criteria are not met, the delegated manager informs the complainant in writing that he or she cannot accept the complaint. If appropriate, the delegated manager suggests other means of resolving the issue.

Step 3 - Review of the complaint

Once the complaint has been acknowledged, the delegated manager reviews the complaint and if necessary, seeks additional information to determine if the allegations are related to harassment.

If the delegated manager concludes that the complaint is not related to harassment, he or she informs the complainant and the respondent in writing. The delegated manager re-directs the complainant to the appropriate avenue of recourse or suggests other means of resolving the issue.

If the allegations are related to harassment, the delegated manager determines what efforts have been made to resolve the problem, identifies immediate avenues of resolution if any, and takes appropriate action.

Step 4 - Mediation

If the harassment complaint remains unresolved, the delegated manager must offer mediation. If the parties agree to mediation, the delegated manager obtains mediation services as noted above under "Delegated managers", section (f).

Step 5 - Investigation

If mediation has not resolved the complaint, or if mediation was not undertaken, the delegated manager launches an investigation and notifies all involved parties. The investigator must meet the requirements as noted previously under "Delegated managers", section (h). The investigator must provide the delegated manager with a written report that includes his or her findings and conclusions.

If mediation is undertaken at any time during the investigation process, the investigation is suspended. It is resumed only if mediation is unsuccessful.

If the delegated manager is satisfied that he or she has all the facts and that the parties have been heard, he or she may decide not to undertake an investigation and to proceed to Step 6.

Step 6 - Decision

The delegated manager reviews all the relevant information and decides what action to take. He or she then informs the parties in writing of the outcome of the investigation and ensures that corrective and/or disciplinary measures are taken, if warranted.

Resource body

Under an agreement with the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, the Public Service Commission will act as an expert resource body by developing programs and providing services to departments in the prevention and resolution of harassment in the workplace, in such areas as training, mediation and investigation.

Other recourse

Employees may wish to discuss grievance options with their bargaining agent.

If harassment is based on one of the grounds of discrimination prohibited under the Canadian Human Rights Act, employees have the right to file a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

Assaults including sexual assault are covered by the Criminal Code and in such cases the police should be contacted.

If a complaint on the same issue is or has been dealt with through another avenue of recourse, the complaint process under this policy will not proceed further and the file will be closed.

Monitoring

Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat and departments/organizations will work together to monitor results in achieving the policy objective and statement.

References

  • Access to Information Act
  • Canadian Human Rights Act
  • Criminal Code
  • Official Languages Act
  • Privacy Act
  • Public Service Employment Act
  • Public Service Staff Relations Act

Enquiries

Enquiries relating to this policy should be referred to the responsible officer designated in departmental/organizational headquarters, who in turn may direct questions regarding interpretation to the Human Resources Branch of the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat.


Appendix - Guide for determining what constitutes harassment

Some questions that can help assess whether the behaviour (act, comment or display) constitutes harassment:

  • Is the behaviour unwelcome or offensive?
  • Would a reasonable person view the conduct as unwelcome or offensive?
  • Did it demean, belittle or cause personal humiliation or embarrassment?
  • Is it a single incident?
  • Is it a series of incidents over a period of time?

It is also important to consider the severity and impropriety of the act, the circumstances and context of each situation, and whether the behaviour is prohibited under the Canadian Human Rights Act. The prohibited grounds are race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, disability and pardoned conviction.

The following are some examples, but not an exhaustive list, to clarify what is meant by "harassment".

What generally constitutes harassment

What may constitute harassment

What does not generally constitute harassment

  • Serious or repeated rude, degrading, or offensive remarks, such as teasing about a person's physical characteristics or appearance, put-downs or insults.
  • Displaying sexist, racist or other offensive pictures, posters, or sending e-mails related to one of the eleven grounds prohibited under the Canadian Human Rights Act.
  • Criticizing an employee in public.
  • Allocating work.
  • Following-up on work absences.
  • Requiring performance to job standards.
  • Taking disciplinary measures.
  • A single or isolated incident such as an inappropriate remark or abrupt manner.
  • Repeatedly singling out an employee for meaningless or dirty jobs that are not part of their normal duties.
  • Exclusion from group activities or assignments.
  • Exclusion of individuals for a particular job based on specific occupational requirements necessary to accomplish the safe and efficient performance of the job.
  • Threats, intimidation or retaliation against an employee, including one who has expressed concerns about perceived unethical or illegal workplace behaviours.
  • Statements damaging to a person's reputation.
  • Measures taken against someone who is careless in his or her work, such as in the handling of secret documents.
  • Unwelcome social invitations, with sexual overtones or flirting, with a subordinate.
  • Unwelcome sexual advances.
  • Making sexually suggestive remarks.
  • Physical contact such as touching or pinching.
  • A social relationship welcomed by both individuals.
  • Friendly gestures among co-workers such as a pat on the back.

Sexual and physical assault are covered by the Criminal Code.

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