Human Resources

Human Resources

Human Resources

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Complaints Procedure Questions and Answers

Background

Why do we have a complaints procedure?

Pursuant to recent changes to the Occupational Health and Safety Act, introduced through Bill 132, employers are required to provide employees with an accessible procedure for submitting a Complaint of Workplace Harassment, including Workplace Sexual Harassment. 

The purpose of the Complaints Procedure is to provide a process for an employee who has allegedly experienced Discrimination and/or Harassment to submit a Complaint to the University. 

This procedure can also be used to file a Complaint should an Employee believe that they are facing reprisal for a Complaint or Report of alleged Harassment and/or Discrimination made in good faith.

This Procedure does not override or diminish the rights provided to Employees under applicable collective agreements, and will be applied with appropriate regard to the rights established under collective agreements, where applicable.

What is a Complaint?
A Complaint, within this procedure, has a very specific definition.  It refers to the process of filing written documentation alleging Harassment and/or Discrimination in the Workplace by the person(s) that have personally experienced the alleged Harassment and/or Discrimination.   If you believe you have experienced Harassment and/or Discrimination, but do not want to file a formal Complaint, you can discuss alternative options with your supervisor/manager or with the Employee and Labour Relations Unit, the Human Rights Office and/or the Ombudsman’s Office.  It is important to note that discussing an incident which may constitute Harassment and/or Discrimination with could trigger the University’s obligation to investigate regardless of whether or not you want to proceed with a Complaint.
Who can use the complaints procedure?

The Complaints Procedure can be used by an Employee to file a Complaint alleging that they have personally experienced Discrimination and/or Harassment in the workplace.

A Complaint can be filed to address Discrimination and/or Harassment of Employees from all sources related to the working environment (including students, colleagues, coworkers, supervisors, managers, administrators, other members of the University community, and the public).

A separate Procedure (the Interim Workplace Harassment & Discrimination Information Reporting Procedure) is available to individuals other than those who are alleged to have personally experienced Discrimination and/or Harassment to report information regarding alleged Discrimination and/or Harassment in the workplace.

 

Procedure

What is the procedure for filing a Complaint?
  • In most cases, concerns relating to Discrimination, Harassment and/or Reprisal are expected to first be raised through consultation with a supervisor or manager. However, in cases in which the Employee’s supervisor or manager is allegedly involved in the Discrimination, Harassment and/or Reprisal, then the Employee’s concerns are expected to be raised directly with the Employee and Labour Relations Unit within Human Resources.
  • If allegations of Discrimination, Harassment and/or reprisal are not fully addressed and resolved by way of consultation with a supervisor or manager, a Complaint can be submitted to the Employee Labour Relations Unit within Human Resources.   If a Complaint involves a Complainant or a Respondent who is employed in Human Resources, then the Complaint is expected to be submitted to the Faculty Relations Office.  The Faculty Relations Office will then ensure that the Complaint is addressed by individuals outside of Human Resources. Similarly, if a Complaint involves a Complainant or a Respondent who is employed in the Faculty Relations Office, that Office will not be assigned primary responsibility for the Complaint.
  • When Human Resources is approached by a prospective Complainant, it will advise that information about a Complaint will be kept confidential except to the extent that Human Resources is legally required to investigate and/or disclose information, in which case information will be shared only on a need-to-know basis.
  • Human Resources will provide a form for submitting a Complaint, and the Complainant will submit the Complaint form to Human Resources in the format provided, attaching additional pages if needed. Upon receiving a Complaint, Human Resources will immediately consider whether interim measures are necessary.
  • Based on a review of the Complaint Form Human Resources will determine whether the conduct alleged in the Complaint amounts to Discrimination, Harassment and/or Reprisal, assuming all of the alleged facts were true.  If not, Human Resources will respond to the Complainant in writing, explaining that the Complaint has been reviewed and that the information provided does not support an allegation of Discrimination, Harassment and/or reprisal under the Interim Workplace Harassment & Discrimination Policy. The Complainant will also be advised that Human Resources will reconsider the Complaint if further significant information is provided.
  • If the information provided, assuming the alleged facts were true, support a finding that Discrimination, Harassment and/or reprisal has occurred, an investigation will be conducted.
  • Human Resources will establish an investigative process that is appropriate in the circumstances.  
  • At any stage during this procedure an Alternative Dispute Resolution (“ADR”) process, such as mediation, can be pursued if the Complainants, Respondents and Human Resources or the Faculty Relations Office, (depending on which has been assigned primary responsibility for the Complaint), consent to the ADR process being pursued.
  • At the conclusion of each investigation, Human Resources will ensure that any Employee who has alleged to have experienced Discrimination and/or Harassment and any Respondent(s) who is an Employee of the University is informed in writing of the outcome of the investigation, and of any corrective actions taken (if applicable). This information will be provided in accordance with the procedural requirements of any applicable legislation and/or collective agreements.
I have a complaint but it involves my supervisor/manager.  Who do I speak to?
Concerns relating to Discrimination and/or Harassment should first be brought to the attention of an employee’s supervisor or manager, however, where an Employee’s supervisor or manager is allegedly involved in Discrimination and/or Harassment; or allegations of Discrimination, Harassment and/or Reprisal are not fully addressed and resolved, a Complaint should be submitted to Human Resources (Employee and Labour Relations).
I believe that I am experiencing Workplace Harassment and/or Discrimination, but I don’t want to make a Complaint.  Can I speak to someone and not have it lead to a Complaint? 

The Human Rights Office is available to provide information and ongoing support to Employees who perceive Discrimination or Discriminatory Harassment (i.e. Code-based harassment) in the workplace. In determining whether a Complaint is appropriate and/or admissible in a particular situation, an employee may seek guidance from the Human Rights Office.  An employee may also speak with the Office of the University Ombudsman.

An employee is not required to file a Complaint under the Interim Workplace Harassment & Discrimination Policy. However, the University is required to investigate alleged incidents of Workplace Harassment and/or Discriminatory Harassment that, if true, would violate the Interim Workplace Harassment & Discrimination Policy.   In addition, a Person of Authority (defined as any person who has charge of a workplace or authority over an employee) is legislatively required to file a Report, using the Interim Workplace Harassment & Discrimination Information Reporting Procedure, any time they become aware of an alleged incident of Harassment and/or Discrimination.   This means that if an employee speaks with a Person of Authority about their concerns, the Person of Authority will be required to Report the concerns and cannot guarantee confidentiality.  The Reporting Procedure is in place to ensure that the University responds appropriately to information about Workplace Harassment and/or Discrimination even in cases in which the person who allegedly experienced Harassment and/or Discrimination does not submit a complaint.

With respect to confidentiality, the Policy indicates that information collected under the Complaints Procedure will be used only for the purposes of administering the Interim Workplace Harassment & Discrimination Policy and only shared on a need-to-know basis and to the extent required to fulfill the University’s legal obligations.   In addition, Employees will not be penalized for making a Complaint in good faith or for participating in a related investigation. 

Human Rights Code based discrimination absent harassing behaviour can be reported confidentially to the University’s Human Rights Office without it being reported to Human Resources and prompting an investigation, unless one or more of the following circumstances apply:

  • Information is received suggesting there is a clear risk, or suggesting there has been an incident of Workplace Harassment under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
  • Information is received that requires the University to investigate Discrimination or Discriminatory Harassment in the context of employment under Section 5 of the Human Rights Code.
  • The University is involved in proceedings which require the disclosure of information.
  • Disclosure of information is otherwise required by law.
Can I make an anonymous Complaint?
Under the Interim Workplace Harassment & Discrimination Information Policy, a Complaint is defined as “an allegation of Harassment and/or Discrimination in the workplace that is pursued under the Interim Workplace Harassment and Discrimination Complaints Procedure by a Complainant.”  This definition highlights that a Complaint cannot be submitted anonymously, as it requires a named Complainant.  However, the University is required to investigate all alleged incidents of Workplace Harassment and/or Discrimination that, if true, would violate the Policy.   This would include information of an alleged violation provided by an anonymous source.  Although allegations can be submitted anonymously; the University encourages individuals to provide as much information as possible as information provided anonymously can be more difficult to substantiate. 
What if the Complaint involves people from different bargaining units?
The Policy applies to all Employees regardless of which bargaining unit they are part of, if any.  If a Complaint involves Employees from different bargaining units, all relevant Collective Agreements will be considered (if applicable). 
What is the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Process referenced in the Complaints and Reporting Procedures?

At any stage during the Complaints Procedure or the Reporting Procedure, an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process, such as mediation, can be pursued if the Complainant(s), Respondent(s), their Bargaining Agents where applicable, and Human Resources (or another office as applicable) consent to ADR being pursued.

The purpose of an ADR process is to resolve concerns using a less formal process, where it is appropriate and agreeable to all parties involved. If all parties to a complaint agree to an ADR process, then any investigation may be held in abeyance (paused) for up to 30 calendar days, after which time the investigation will be recommenced if no resolution is reached as a result of the ADR process. 

What if I am a student as well as an employee and seeking to file a Complaint?

If you are a student as well as an employee of the University, and are seeking to file a Complaint based on an alleged experience of Harassment and/or Discrimination in your capacity as an employee of Queen’s University and with respect to a workplace issue, you would use the Interim Workplace Harassment and Discrimination Complaints Procedure to pursue such a complaint.

If it is alleged that a person has, in their capacity as a student, engaged in Discrimination and/or Harassment against an Employee, the matter will be addressed under the Queen’s University Student Code of Conduct, 2016. However, Human Resources and/or the Faculty Relations Office will nevertheless be consulted in the process to ensure that any investigation and/or corrective action satisfies the standards set out in the Policy.

Student conduct is governed by the Student Code of Conduct. Students are responsible for educating themselves on the standards of behaviour expected of them.  Students who wish to report a violation of the Student Code of Conduct may contact the appropriate student government society, the Alma Mater Society (AMS) or the Society of Graduate and Professional Students (SGPS) at any time to file a complaint, or may contact the University Ombudsman with questions or concerns.

Can I be reprimanded/disciplined for making a Complaint?

Employees will not be reprimanded for submitting a Complaint that is put forward in good faith, or for participating in a related investigation.  If an employee believes that they are facing reprisal for submitting a Complaint or a Report, they are encouraged to first raise the matter with the Employee and Labour Relations Unit within Human Resources.  If the issue is not resolved through this avenue, the employee may follow the Complaints procedure to seek redress.

It is expected that all Complaints and/or Reports will be submitted in good faith.  Any employee who alleges a violation of the Policy and that allegation is later determined to be frivolous, vexatious or made without a bona fide basis upon which to believe that a violation actually occurred, may be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including discharge from employment for just cause. 

 If I believe I have experienced Workplace Harassment and/or Discrimination, is filing a Complaint the only option available to me, or are there other avenues of addressing this issue?

Employees who believe that they have experienced Harassment and/or Discrimination in the workplace are encouraged to first discuss these concerns with their supervisor/manager.  In cases in which the supervisor/manager may be a part of the alleged experience of Harassment and/or Discrimination, the employee is encouraged to discuss these concerns with an Employee/Labour Relations Advisor within the Employee and Labour Relations Unit of Human Resources, the Faculty Relations Office (faculty members), the Human Rights Office, or the Office of the University Ombudsman.

All of these University resources are in place to support employees in understanding the Policy and/or Complaints Procedure, including when it would be appropriate to file a Complaint under the Policy, and what other avenues are available to them to address the issue.

If you are a unionized employee, you may also consult with your Union Representative.

What is the timeline for a complaint to be processed?
The timeline for completing the procedures under the Interim Workplace Harassment & Discrimination Complaints Procedure will depend on the unique circumstances of the Complaint such as the complexity and severity of the matters at issue, the number of Complainants, Respondents and witnesses involved, and other evidence to be considered. Under the Interim Workplace Harassment & Discrimination Policy, the University is required to respond to Complaints within a reasonable amount of time. In addition, the University is required to ensure that individuals involved in an investigation, or their respective bargaining agent(s), where applicable, are informed of the commencement of the investigative process in each particular case.
 I have an issue with my co-worker and/or supervisor that isn’t harassment.  What can I do?

If an employee has a concern regarding an issue within the workplace that does not involve their supervisor, they can seek assistance from their supervisor/manager or an Employee and Labour Relations Advisor.

If an employee has a concern that directly involves their supervisor, the employee can seek assistance from their Human Resources Advisor or the supervisor of their supervisor.

The Employee/Family Assistance Program is a useful resource for issues related to the workplace that are not covered by this Policy or other workplace policies, or for issues related to matters outside of work.

Human Resources offers support through Organizational Development & Learning, including facilitation of dispute resolution.