Human Rights Advisory Services

Human Rights Advisory Services
Human Rights Advisory Services

Red Button Issue: Written Complaint

Bottom Line

If an employer receives a written complaint of workplace harassment, it has to respond quickly and effectively.


Workplace Harassment

In  Amalgamated Transit Union v Toronto Transit Commission (Ontario Grievance Arbitration) 2004, the complainant was a mechanical service worker with the TTC.  This employee, who had always received glowing evaluations from his various foremen, was bewildered to find himself working for a new foreman who was severely critical of his work.  The foreman persistently criticized the worker's performance while refusing to provide him with either training or assistance. He "punished" the complainant by refusing to allow him to go on breaks and "rubbed it in" by allowing his coworkers to go on extended breaks.   In a bid to get away from the alleged harasser, the worker transferred to a lower paying position in another unit.  Here he performed well until the foreman was transferred to the same unit where he soon resumed the harassing conduct. 

The Complaint

This time, the worker wrote a long, well-documented statement outlining the workplace harassment he had allegedly suffered under the foreman.  Moreover, this statement of complaint was signed by several coworkers who had witnessed the harassment. 

Failure to Respond

 After receiving the complaint, the employer failed to respond; a supervisor chose not to proceed with discipline and the Human Resources Department decided not to investigate the complaint.

Arbitrator's Ruling

The union filed a grievance.  In its defense, the TTC argued that the Collective Agreement had no article dealing with harassment, and that the issue was therefore moot. The Arbitrator disagreed; the collective agreement, it maintained, had an implied anti-harassment term. The Arbitrator made an extensive award of $25,000 in general damages. He found it incomprehensible that no one in authority took the time to respond to the complainant's well documented and witnessed statement.