Human Resources

Human Resources

Human Resources

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Interim Policy Questions and Answers

Background

What is the purpose of the Interim Workplace Harassment & Discrimination Policy?
The Interim Workplace Harassment & Discrimination Policy replaces the Prevention and Resolution of Harassment in the Workplace Policy.
The purpose of the Policy is to support the University’s commitment to preventing discrimination and harassment in the workplace and to ensure that the University effectively addresses and responds to reports and complaints of alleged Discrimination and/or Harassment in the workplace. The Interim Workplace Harassment & Discrimination Policy was developed to satisfy legal requirements regarding Discrimination and Harassment in the workplace in accordance with the Human Rights Code and the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
Why is the Policy considered “interim”?
We implemented an “interim” Policy to ensure that the University was compliant with changes made to the Occupational Health and Safety Act as a result of Bill 132, which took effect September 8, 2016. The Interim Workplace Harassment & Discrimination Policy will overlap with other University Policies, including the University’s Harassment/Discrimination Complaint Policy and Procedure, until such time as all relevant documents have been updated to reflect the changes required by the Occupational Health & Safety Act (Bill 132).
Why did the University amend its previous Policy on Workplace Harassment?
The University revised its Policy on Workplace Harassment due to recent changes to the Occupational Health and Safety Act introduced through Bill 132.
In addition, the new Policy and related Procedures contain amendments to incorporate current best practices for investigations of allegations of Workplace Harassment and of Discrimination under the Human Rights Code. The previous Human Resources Policy (Prevention of Resolution of Harassment in the Workplace) excluded complaints involving an alleged violation of the Human Rights Code.
What are the requirements of Bill 132 as it relates to the new Policy?
Several elements of the Interim Workplace Harassment & Discrimination Policy and related Procedures are requirements of Bill 132. These include:
  • The inclusion of a procedure that does not rely solely on complainants to initiate and address Workplace Harassment and Discrimination. The purpose of the Interim Workplace Harassment & Discrimination Information Reporting Procedure is to ensure that the University responds appropriately when it becomes aware of an allegation of Harassment and/or Discrimination that is not submitted in the form of a complaint by the individual who has allegedly experienced Workplace Discrimination and/or Harassment.
  • Polices must be updated to ensure that “Workplace Sexual Harassment” is specifically addressed as a workplace safety issue (as opposed to a general human rights issue). The Interim Workplace Harassment & Discrimination Policy includes a definition of “Workplace Sexual Harassment” in addition to Workplace Harassment.
  • Employers must clearly define an accessible process for submitting a report of harassment to someone other than their supervisor or manager in the event that the supervisor or manager is involved in the alleged incident. Step 1 of both the Interim Workplace Harassment & Discrimination Complaints Procedure and the Interim Workplace Harassment & Discrimination Information Reporting Procedure outlines that in most cases, concerns relating to Discrimination, Harassment or Reprisal are expected to first be raised through consultation with a supervisor or manager. However, in cases in which the employee’s supervisor 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.
  • Employers must develop an effective process and procedure to investigate complaints/incidents and report the results. The process and procedures for investigating complaints/incidents are outlined in the Interim Workplace Harassment & Discrimination Complaints Procedure and the Interim Workplace Harassment & Discrimination Information Reporting Procedure.
  • Employers must investigate complaints in a “manner appropriate in the circumstances”. Either the Employee and Labour Relations Unit within Human Resources or the Faculty Relations Office (if an incident involves a member of an academic bargaining unit administered by the Faculty Relations Office), will establish an investigation process that is appropriate in the circumstances. The University will ensure that procedural and substantive rights granted to those individuals in accordance with their respective collective agreements are maintained throughout the process. Investigations may be conducted internally or by an external investigator, at the discretion of the University.
  • Employers are required to provide written results of the investigation and of any corrective action that may be taken. As is outlined in the Complaints and Reporting Procedures, Human Resources will ensure that any employee who is alleged to have experienced Discrimination and /or Harassment in the workplace (including the Complainant(s) and any Respondent(s) who are also employees), are informed in writing of the outcome of the investigation, and of any corrective actions taken (if applicable), at the conclusion of each investigation. This information will be provided in accordance with the procedural requirements of any applicable legislation and/or collective agreements.
  • Employers must balance the duty to address Workplace Harassment and Discrimination against the privacy of individuals involved. Both the Complaints and the Reporting Procedures under the Interim Workplace Harassment & Discrimination Policy contain provisions regarding the safe storage of physical documents, restricted access to electronic documents created under the Procedures, the duty of participants in an investigation to maintain the confidentiality of information disclosed or obtained during the process, and limitations regarding the disclosure of Personal Information during the process and of investigation reports.
How is the Interim Workplace Harassment & Discrimination Policy different from the University’s new Sexual Violence Policy that was recently introduced?
In addition to amending the Occupational Health and Safety Act, Bill 132 also imposes new standards under the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities Act aimed at preventing and responding more effectively to sexual violence at Universities. The new standards regarding sexual violence under Bill 132 are “student focused” and therefore are being addressed under the Sexual Violence Policy, which applies specifically to students.
How is the Interim Policy different than the previous Human Resources Policy?
The Interim Workplace Harassment & Discrimination Policy addresses all forms of harassment and/or discrimination that may occur in a workplace. This includes discrimination and/or harassment on the basis of protected grounds as outlined in the Ontario Human Rights Code. The previous policy, Prevention and Resolution of Harassment in the Workplace Policy, excluded complaints of harassment on the basis of protected grounds as outlined in the Ontario Human Rights Code. While this represents a significant change to the written policy, the current practice is that both the Employee and Labour Relations Unit within Human Resources and the Faculty Relations Office are responsible for addressing allegations of both non-code and code-based complaints of harassment and/or discrimination that are reported to those units. This is largely because all existing Collective Agreements at the University provide a mechanism for dealing with code-based complaints and the Employee and Labour Relations Unit within Human Resources and the Faculty Relations Office are responsible for administering these Collective Agreements on behalf of the University. Another difference is that the previous Human Resources Policy did not include a written procedure for addressing complaints/incidents of Harassment and/or Discrimination. However, the Employee and Labour Relations Unit within Human Resources and the Faculty Relations Office have been using procedures for investigating complaints similar to those contained in the Interim Policy for several years.

 

Definitions

What is Workplace Harassment?
Workplace Harassment occurs when someone engages in a course of vexatious (distressing) comment or conduct against an employee in a workplace that is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome, and includes Workplace Sexual Harassment. Some examples of Workplace Harassment include, but are not limited to:
  • Serious or repeated rude, degrading, or offensive remarks, such as teasing related to a person's physical characteristics or appearance, put-downs, or insults.
  • Repeatedly singling out an employee by assigning them with demeaning and belittling jobs that are not part of their regular duties.
  • Comments destroying a person's reputation, repeated insinuations, or unfounded accusations.
  • Bullying.

Harassment does not include reasonable action taken by the University or a Person of Authority relating to the management and direction of an Employee(s) or a workplace.

What is Workplace Sexual Harassment?

Workplace Sexual Harassment occurs when someone engages in a course of vexatious (distressing) comment or conduct against an employee in a workplace, because of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression that is known or ought to reasonably be known to be unwelcome.  It also includes making a sexual solicitation or advance where the person making the solicitation or advance is in a position to confer, grant or deny a benefit or advancement to the worker in circumstances where the person knows or ought reasonably to know that the solicitation or advance is unwelcome.  Some examples of Workplace Sexual Harassment include, but are not limited to:

  • Unwelcome social invitations, with sexual overtones or flirting, with a subordinate.
  • Unwelcome sexual advances which may or may not be accompanied by promises or threats, explicit or implicit.
  • Persistently asking someone out, despite being turned down.
Why does the Policy include a definition of both Workplace Harassment and Workplace Sexual Harassment? Doesn’t Workplace Harassment include Workplace Sexual Harassment?
Although Workplace Harassment includes Workplace Sexual Harassment, under the recent changes to the Occupational Health and Safety Act (Bill 132), employers are specifically required to include a stand-alone definition of “Workplace Sexual Harassment.”  This may be understood to signal to employers and employees that the legislature believes that this issue requires specific attention as a workplace safety issue.
What is Discriminatory Harassment? 

Discriminatory Harassment occurs when someone engages in a course of vexatious (distressing) comment or conduct directed at an employee in the course of their employment that is known or ought to reasonably be known to be unwelcome and the comments or conduct are related to one or more Protected Grounds as determined by the Ontario Human Rights Code.  The Protected Grounds outlined by the Ontario Human Rights Code include:

  • Age
  • Ancestry, colour, race
  • Citizenship
  • Ethnic origin
  • Place of origin
  • Creed
  • Disability
  • Family status
  • Marital status
  • Gender identity, gender expression
  • Record of offences
  • Sex (including pregnancy and breastfeeding)
  • Sexual orientation

Discriminatory Harassment does not include reasonable action taken by the University or a Person of Authority relating to the management and direction of an Employee(s) or a workplace.

What if I am concerned about Workplace Violence and/or Domestic Violence?

If an employee is concerned about an immediate threat of Workplace Violence, including sexual violence and/or domestic violence that would likely expose them, or other employees, to physical injury in the workplace, the employee is expected to take the following steps:

  • Call Campus Security Emergency Services at 613-533-6111 (or internal at ext. 36111) and/or the Police (911)

The employee is expected to contact their manager and/or Human Resources once the immediate threat has passed or if their concerns do not involve an immediate threat.

 

Roles and Responsibilities

Is it true that the University has a duty to investigate complaints?

The University is committed to providing a work environment in which all Employees are treated with dignity, and to fostering a climate of understanding and mutual respect for the value of each employee. To that end, the University takes complaints or information regarding alleged incidents of Harassment, Discrimination or Reprisal very seriously.

Upon receiving a Complaint, Human Resources will review the Complaint Form to determine whether the conduct alleged in the Complaint amounts to Discrimination, Harassment and/or reprisal, assuming all of the alleged facts were true.  If the allegation does not amount to a violation of the Policy, 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, supports 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.

What is the Role of the Human Rights Office?
The Human Rights Office is responsible for raising awareness with respect to issues of Discrimination and Discriminatory Harassment, and for promoting a climate of understanding and mutual respect for all members of the University community. 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, a prospective Complainant may seek guidance from the Human Rights Office. The Human Rights Office does not initiate the Complaints Process on behalf of Employees or adjudicate Complaints, nor does it serve as an advocate for individuals in the Complaints Process. The Human Rights Office provides a confidential service. The Human Rights Office will only share information with the Employee and Labour Relations Unit within Human Resources and/or the Faculty Relation Office when it is required to do so pursuant to the Interim Workplace Harassment & Discrimination Complaints Procedure and the Interim Workplace Harassment & Discrimination Information Reporting Procedure.
What is the Role of the Office of the University Ombudsman?
The University Ombudsman provides an independent, impartial and confidential office through which members of the University community may seek assistance in the pursuit of resolving University-related concerns. This may include, for example, providing advice and support to a witness or Respondent involved in the investigation of a Report or a Complaint. The University Ombudsman may initiate a Report, but does not adjudicate Complaints or initiate the Complaints Process on behalf of Employees, nor does it serve as an advocate for individuals in the Complaints Process. The University Ombudsman provides a confidential service. The Ombudsman will only share information with the Employee and Labour Relations Unit within Human Resources and/or the Faculty Relation Office when it is required to do so pursuant to the Interim Workplace Harassment & Discrimination Information Complaints Procedure and the Interim Workplace Harassment & Discrimination Information Reporting Procedure.
What is the Role of the Department of Environmental Health and Safety?

The Department of Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) is primarily responsible for overseeing compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act, including requirements related to Workplace Harassment.

EHS is responsible for providing Employees with appropriate information and instruction with respect to Workplace Harassment, including notifying them of this Policy and its related Procedures.

EHS will provide all Persons of Authority with information and instruction that will enable them to recognize, assess and address Workplace Harassment in their respective workplaces, and will ensure that Persons of Authority are aware of this Policy and related Procedures.

EHS may initiate a Report under the Interim Workplace Harassment & Discrimination Information Reporting Procedure in response to information concerning Discrimination and/or Harassment in the workplace.

EHS will post copies of the Interim Workplace Harassment & Discrimination Policy and related procedures on the established Health and Safety Bulletin Boards.

Do these changes affect any other policies, procedures and/or collective agreements?

There will be overlap between the new Policy and other University policies and procedures until all relevant documents have been updated to reflect the changes required by the Occupational Health & Safety Act (Bill 132). The University will administer overlap according to the following principles:

  • This Policy and related procedures will be applied to all incidents in which an Employee has allegedly experienced, or engaged in, Discrimination and/or Harassment to ensure that the University satisfies its commitment to maintaining a work environment in which all Employees are treated with dignity, to fostering a climate of understanding and mutual respect for the value of each Employee, and to fulfilling its obligations under applicable legislation and collective agreements.
  • Where a Complainant chooses to pursue their allegations under another policy or procedure, the University will nevertheless ensure that the standards relating to investigations and the communication of investigation outcomes, set out under this Policy and related procedures, are upheld.
  • Those who are obliged to disclose information under this Policy and related procedures must comply with disclosure obligations regardless of whether other policies and procedures are being implemented.
  • This Policy 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.
  • This Policy does not preclude Employees from pursing resolution through external resources and processes, including those offered by the Human Rights Legal Support Centre, the police, the Ontario Labour Relations Board, the Ontario Human Rights Commission, and the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.