A Toolkit for Addressing Workplace Harassment

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1 A Toolkit for Addressing Workplace Harassment Human Rights and Respectful Workplace Office Table of Contents Bullying in the Workplace... 2 Tips for Receiving a Complaint... 4 Options for Intervening... 5 Procedural Fairness & the Complaint Resolution Process... 6 Restoring the Workplace... 7 VIU's Policies Human Rights...8 Personal Harassment.. 10

2 Bullying in the Workplace What is workplace bullying? Bullying is usually seen as acts or verbal comments that could 'mentally' hurt or isolate a person in the workplace. Sometimes, bullying can involve negative physical contact as well. Bullying usually involves repeated incidents or a pattern of behaviour that is intended to intimidate, offend, degrade or humiliate a particular person or group of people. It has also been described as the assertion of power through aggression. What are examples of bullying? While bullying is a form of aggression, the actions can be both obvious and subtle. It is important to note that the following is not a checklist, nor does it mention all forms of bullying. This list is included as a way of showing some of the ways bullying may happen in a workplace. Also remember that bullying is usually considered to be a pattern of behaviour where one or more incidents will help show that bullying is taking place. The following article was developed by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. While the title references bullying the information, as we discussed in the workshop, is applicable and relevant to personal harassment, discriminatory harassment, and psychological harassment as well. Is bullying a workplace issue? Work Safe BC has announced the intent to develop occupational health and safety policies on workplace bullying and harassment. In doing this BC is following the lead of other provinces in Canada that have occupational health and safety legislation that specifically deals with bullying in the workplace. Quebec legislation includes "psychological harassment" in the "Act Respecting Labour Standards". Some jurisdictions have legislation on workplace violence in which bullying is included. In addition, employers have a general duty to protect employees from risks at work. This duty can mean both physical harm and mental health. Many employers choose to address the issue of bullying as both physical and mental harm can "cost" an organization. In general, there will be differences in opinion and sometimes conflicts at work. However, behaviour that is unreasonable and offends or harms any person should not be tolerated. Examples include: belittling a person's opinions excluding or isolating someone socially intimidating a person assigning unreasonable duties or workload which are unfavourable to one person establishing impossible deadlines that will set up the individual to fail withholding necessary information or purposely giving the wrong information making jokes that are 'obviously offensive' by spoken word or constantly changing work guidelines physically abusing or threatening abuse removing areas of responsibilities without cause tampering with a person's personal belongings or work equipment. underwork - creating a feeling of uselessness yelling or using profanity criticizing a person persistently or constantly unwarranted (or undeserved) punishment blocking applications for training, leave or promotion tampering with a person's personal belongings or work equipment. spreading malicious rumours, gossip, or innuendo that is not true undermining or deliberately impeding a person's work intruding on a person s privacy by pestering, spying or stalking 1 It is sometimes hard to know if bullying is happening at the workplace. Many studies acknowledge that there is a "fine line" between strong management and bullying. Comments that are objective and are intended to provide constructive feedback are not usually considered bullying, but rather are intended to assist the employee with their work. If you are not sure an action or statement could be considered bullying, you can use the "reasonable person" test. Would most people consider the action unacceptable?

3 Bullying HOW CAN BULLYING AFFECT THE INDIVIDUAL? People who are the targets of bullying may experience a range of effects. These reactions include: shock anger feelings of frustration and/or helplessness increased sense of vulnerability loss of confidence physical symptoms such as inability to sleep loss of appetite psychosomatic symptoms such as stomach pains headaches panic or anxiety, especially about going to work family tension and stress inability to concentrate, and low morale and productivity. DO NOT RETALIATE. You may end up looking like the perpetrator and will most certainly cause confusion for those responsible for evaluating and responding to the situation. (Adapted from: Violence in the Workplace Prevention Guide. CCOHS) HOW CAN BULLYING AFFECT THE WORKPLACE? Bullying affects the overall "health" of an organization. An "unhealthy" workplace can have many effects. In general these include: increased absenteeism poorer customer service. WHAT CAN YOU DO IF YOU THINK YOU ARE BEING BULLIED? If you feel that you are being bullied, discriminated against, victimized or subjected to any form of harassment: increased turnover increased stress increased costs for employee assistance programs (EAPs), recruitment, etc. increased risk for accidents / incidents decreased productivity and motivation decreased morale affect reduced corporate image and customer confidence, and FIRMLY tell the person that his or her behaviour is not acceptable and ask them to stop. You can ask a supervisor or union member to be with you when you approach the person. KEEP a factual journal or diary of daily events. Record: o The date, time and what happened in as much detail as possible o The names of witnesses. o The outcome of the event. Remember, it is not just the character of the incidents, but the number, frequency, and especially the pattern that can reveal the bullying or harassment. KEEP copies of any letters, memos, s, faxes, etc., received from the person. REPORT the harassment to the person identified in your workplace policy, your supervisor, or a delegated manager. If your concerns are minimized, proceed to the next level of management. 2

4 3 What can an employer do? A workplace violence prevention program must: be developed by management and employee representatives. apply to management, employee's, clients, independent contractors and anyone who has a relationship with your company. The most important component of any workplace prevention program is management commitment. Management commitment is best communicated in a written policy. Since bullying is a form of violence in the workplace, employers may wish to write a comprehensive policy that covers a range of incidents (from bullying and harassment to physical violence). define what you mean by workplace bullying (or harassment or violence) in precise, concrete language. provide clear examples of unacceptable behaviour and working conditions. state in clear terms your organization's view toward workplace bullying and its commitment to the prevention of workplace bullying. precisely state the consequences of making threats or committing acts. outline the process by which preventive measures will be developed. encourage reporting of all incidents of bullying or other forms of workplace violence. outline the confidential process by which employees can report incidents and to whom. assure no reprisals will be made against reporting employees. outline the procedures for investigating and resolving complaints. describe how information about potential risks of bullying/violence will be communicated to employees. make a commitment to provide support services to victims. offer a confidential Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to allow employees with personal problems to seek help. make a commitment to fulfill the prevention training needs of different levels of personnel within the organization. make a commitment to monitor and regularly review the policy. state applicable regulatory requirements, where possible. (Adapted from: Violence in the Workplace Prevention Guide. CCOHS)

5 What are some general tips for workplace leaders. 4 Receiving a complaint: Listen, Assess, Record. Listen carefully. Your goal is to understand the situation from the complainant s perspective. Ask for specific examples and/or incidents; vague complaints that someone is aggressive or harasses are impossible to investigate or address. Do not give your own opinion or judgment about the complaint. When you think you have a good understanding of the situation then check it out. Take good notes to ensure you have a record of the complaint. DO NOT DO NOT IGNORE any potential problems. DO NOT DELAY resolution. Act as soon as possible. (Adopted from the Wellness in the Workplace Guide. CCOHS) Assessing the complaint: How serious are the allegations? Are the allegations possible violations of either the Human Rights Policy/Procedure or the Personal Harassment Policy/Procedure? Is the situation one you can address or should external resources be brought in? Consult as needed with your supervisor, human resources department or the Human Rights Director. Record keeping Determine whether the concern or complaint is significant enough to warrant creating a record. Consider the seriousness of the complaint and whether a person investigating the concern or complaint at a later date might request information from you. Ensure your notes include as many of the following detail as possible: The particulars of the concern as explained to you. Your response to the person who complained, including any referral or suggestions you made. Include a description of the demeanor of the person (e.g. spoke quietly or loudly,). Write your notes in a professional manner, as they could be requested under FOIPOP legislation, or required as evidence at a later date in a formal process. Describe what you saw and heard, not what you thought.

6 5 Options for Intervening Not all of these options will be appropriate. You need to assess the situation and the limits of your role to identify your best course of action. Remember to consult as appropriate. Meet individually with all parties to gather information on what is happening. Objectively assess the information you have. While your own experience with the parties can be used as information, your assessment should not be based solely on your own experience but on all the information you can gather. If at all possible bring the parties together to discuss the issues face to face. Being the go between is often ineffective and creates more, rather than fewer, issues. Make suggestions for changes in behavior. If you are a supervisor you may wish to consider making the change in behavior an employer expectation human resources advisors can assist you with making that decision. Can a Union Steward assist? Harassment prevention is in everyone s interest, and a referral to a steward may be helpful. Conflict and harassment often have serious impacts on a person s well-being. Reminding an employee of the availability of support through the Employee and Family Assistance Program is often a good idea. Make sure you monitor the impact of any intervention you make. Check in to how affected employees are doing and whether any more issues have surfaced. Be quick in responding to any reoccurrence of the problematic behavior; if you are not in a position to take action take the issue to a supervisor (usually a dean, director, or regional campus principal) who does have the appropriate authority. If you become aware of a situation or receive a report which involves yelling, unwelcome physical contact, assault, violence, threats, implied threats, or criminal harassment a report should be made immediately to a supervisor and to Health and Safety Services.

7 Complainant rights and responsibilities: A complainant has the right to state and make concerns known and to have their concerns addressed. In order to protect the person s right to complain there should be no recriminations or retaliation against a person for having raised a complaint. VIU s procedure prohibits any kind of retaliation against a person for having filed a complaint. If a complainant brings concerns forward they should be heard in a timely manner and investigated without bias or pre-judgment. Procedural Fairness & the Complaint Resolution Process Respondent s Rights and Responsibilities: A respondent has the right to know the details of the complaint, what violations have been alleged and what remedy is sought by the complainant. A respondent has the right to respond to these allegations and to be represented by a person of his/her choice. A respondent is responsible for not retaliating in any way against a person for having filed a complaint. Any retaliation by a respondent is a violation of University Procedure. 6 A complainant has the right to a representative of choice. A complainant has a responsibility to refrain from making complaints which are frivolous, vexatious or malicious. An employee who is found to have filed a frivolous, vexatious or malicious complaint is in violation of University policy. The principles of natural justice and procedural fairness ensure that all parties complainant and respondent, witnesses and others in the workplace have a chance to be heard and are treated fairly. The Union: The union has a duty to represent both sides if the allegation of harassment is between two union members this is called the duty of fair representation. The union would be sure that the two members are represented by different union stewards. The union has a responsibility to assist in the resolution of a complaint and should not impede the efforts of the employer to deal with the situation. The union may work with the employer through a process that both management and union members support and will abide by to resolve complaints or harassment or bullying. The University: The University is responsible for ensuring the complaint resolution process meets the requirements of procedural fairness. An important requirement is ensuring any decision is made by an unbiased decisionmaker. This requires that the decision-maker has no close association or prior involvement with either party and has not participated in the process or a related process in another capacity. This may at times require the hiring of an independent outside advisor or investigator to ensure neutrality and follow through of procedural fairness.

8 Restoring the Workplace Steps for restoring the workplace can include: After someone has spoken out formally or informally what follows in the workplace is often fraught with doubt and recriminations, silence and suspicion, negativity, blame and/or exoneration. Often time somebody leaves; at other times someone stays on and the parties and the working group must continue working together. Throughout the investigation process, and after the complaint has been investigated and addressed, it is important to be deliberate and mindful of restoring the workplace. 7 Acknowledging that all concerned have undergone a difficult process; don t pretend that nothing has happened Providing support to the complainant for having taken it upon her or himself to identify a difficult issue and thereby initiate workplace change Providing support to the respondent as it is difficult to reestablish working relationships, especially if a finding of harassment has been made. Providing support to witnesses and to co-workers who may not have been involved but likely knew about and were affected by the circumstances Taking steps to allay any feelings of guilt, hurt or isolation Recommending EFAP counseling and avenues to other resources, as needed Continuing to monitor the workplace environment and do periodic education related to harassment Remain open to employee comments and feedback as they will let you know what needs to be addressed Do exit interviews with personnel leaving your department or faculty as a way of assessing the working environment Make any necessary adjustments to policy, procedures or workplace practices based on lessons learned

9 8 Policy Human Rights Policy Type: A - Educational (Board) Last Approved: March 25, 2010 Executive Responsibility: President & Vice-Chancellor Next Review: Nov., 2013 Administrative Responsibility: Human Rights Advisor Procedure: STATEMENT: It is the policy of Vancouver Island University and our responsibility under the BC Human Rights Code, to provide an environment that is free of harassment and other forms of discrimination. This Policy is based on the belief that Vancouver Island University, as an educational institution and as a workplace, has the following responsibilities: to educate members of the University about discrimination and its eradication; to prevent discrimination occurring at the University through diligent and proactive action; and to respond promptly and effectively to any complaints of discrimination. The intention of the Policy is to prevent discrimination against any member of the University, due to race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, political belief, religion, marital status, family status, physical or mental disability, sex, sexual orientation, age, or an unrelated criminal conviction. Sexual harassment of individuals or groups is also discrimination, which is prohibited by law and by this policy. All members of the University are prohibited from engaging in discrimination. It is recognized that academic freedom is an important value of the University. This policy will be interpreted in light of our commitment to this value. Education and increased awareness are the keys to eliminating incidents of discrimination and harassment. The University shall develop and implement an educational program for all members of the University community. The academic and administrative leadership is responsible for taking action to maintain a fair and equitable environment free of discrimination and harassment. All members of the University community are responsible for treating each other with respect and dignity. A complaint resolution procedure, Human Rights Education Initiative and Complaint Resolution (the Procedure ) -- shall be maintained by the University for members of the University community to address allegations of human rights violations prohibited by the Policy and Procedure. It is the intent of the University that all complaints made to the University of

10 9 alleged violations of the Policy and/or Procedure be required to be addressed through two avenues only: the Procedures, and, when applicable, the Collective Agreements between the University and the unions. This does not prevent a member of the University from lodging an external complaint under the B.C. Human Rights Code. The following principles shall guide the University s response to allegations of violations of the Policy or Procedure: a. All members of the University community are required to comply with the Human Rights Policy and Procedure; b. The University will treat alleged violations of the Policy or Procedure promptly; c. A spirit of fairness to all parties will guide the proceedings; d. Adherence to confidentiality is required in accordance with the provisions of the Procedure and law; and e. Both complainants and respondents are entitled to a final resolution of allegations of violations of the Policy and/or Procedure. The University considers discrimination and harassment to be a serious infringement of a person s human rights and University members found to be in violation of the Policy and Procedures may be subject to a range of corrective measures, up to and including expulsion or dismissal from the University. Decisions regarding violations of the Policy and Procedure are made under the Procedure or the Harassment section of the relevant Collective Agreement. Appeals of decisions made under the Procedure or the relevant Collective Agreement shall be in accordance with the provisions of the Procedure. Members of the University community subject to collective agreements who elect to use the grievance provision in their collective agreement do not have the right to a further appeal under the provisions of the Procedure. There shall be established an advisor on discrimination and harassment (the Advisor ) and an Advisory Committee (the Committee ). The Advisor, and Committee shall be responsible for developing and maintaining programs and Procedure that appropriately meet the goals of this policy, subject to approval by the President of the University. end of document

11 10 Policy Personal Harassment Policy Type: C - Institutional Last Approved: March 28, 2013 Executive Responsibility: President & Vice-Chancellor Next Review: April, 2013 Administrative Responsibility: Director, Human Rights and Respectful Workplace Procedure: STATEMENT: This policy is intended to protect employees and students from personal harassment and to provide a procedure for addressing personal harassment complaints. For the purposes of this policy, personal harassment is defined as objectionable conduct or comment directed towards a specific person(s), which serves no legitimate work or educational purpose and has the effect of creating an intimidating, humiliating, offensive, or hostile work or educational environment. Personal harassment is a broad term that includes behaviours that could be called psychological harassment or bullying. Vancouver Island University will endeavour to provide employees and students with an environment free of personal harassment. Maintaining an appropriate work and educational environment is a goal shared by the administration and the employee unions. Members of the University community are responsible for treating other community members with respect and dignity. Education, increased awareness, and prompt action are the keys to eliminating incidents of personal harassment. The administration will assume primary responsibility for addressing personal harassment, supported by union leaders as appropriate. The following principles will guide the response to any allegations of personal harassment: a. members of the University community are required to comply with the Personal Harassment Procedures; b. the University will endeavour to treat alleged violations of the Policy or Procedures promptly; c. a spirit of fairness to all parties will guide the proceedings; d. adherence to confidentiality is required in accordance with the Procedures; e. both the complainant and the respondent are entitled to a final resolution of allegations of violations of the Policy or Procedures.

12 11 APPLICATION This policy applies only to behaviour and incidents that are not covered by the institution s Human Rights Policy. Behaviour and incidents of personal harassment in which physical force is used or where threatening statements are made that could be reasonably perceived as placing a person at risk of injury may also fall under Policy Prevention of Violence in the Workplace. In this event, the Director, Human Rights and Respectful Workplace and the Administrative Coordinator, Health and Safety Services will work together to ensure that appropriate requirements of both policies are met. The procedures under this policy will apply to all personal harassment complaints between employees and between students and employees. Complaints involving students only shall be addressed under the Student Conduct Policy. COMPLAINTS Vancouver Island University shall maintain a complaint resolution procedure to ensure that complaints of personal harassment are addressed. The objective of the complaint resolution process is to restore the work or educational environment for the individual complainant and, if necessary, for the entire work or educational group. POTENTIAL CONSEQUENCES Behaviour that contravenes this policy will be subject to remedial action including direction to cease the harassment, apology, and/or participation in an educational program regarding harassment. In addition, harassing behaviour may result in disciplinary action, including reprimand, suspension, or termination. Decisions under this policy may be appealed or grieved pursuant to the Complaints Procedure. end of document 2

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