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GBEB Harassment in the Workplace

Adopted: June 1, 1993

Amended:  December 9, 2003, September 13, 2005

Policy

The Board believes that all staff have the right to be treated with equality, dignity, and respect, and advises that any form of harassment within the District based on race, religious belief, ancestry, colour, place of origin, age, gender, family status, marital status, physical disability, mental disability, sexual orientation, source of income or other factors will not be tolerated.

The Board believes that it has the responsibility to provide employees with a humane work environment that is harassment free and supportive of the dignity and self-esteem of every staff member.

To achieve this goal, the Board directs the Superintendent to:

1.   Establish a program to prevent and eliminate discrimination and harassment in the workplace;

2.   Develop strategies to educate all staff regarding what constitutes harassment as well as their rights and obligations; and

3.   Investigate alleged violations.

In keeping with its legal and social responsibilities as an employer, the Board will treat any complaint of harassment as a serious matter.

Guidelines

The Board recognizes its moral and legal responsibility to provide all staff with a work environment free of discrimination and harassment, and endorses the following:

1.   The Board shall not tolerate or condone actions on the part of one staff member towards another that offends and that are based on or directed at  race, religious belief, ancestry, colour, place of origin, age, gender, family status, marital status, physical disability, mental disability, sexual orientation or source of income.

2.   Staff shall not engage in conduct or behaviour which constitutes discrimination or harassment as referred to in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Human Rights, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Act of Alberta and relevant collective agreements.

3.   Board members shall be expected to adhere to this policy.

4.   Any individual subjected to discrimination or harassment has a right and responsibility to make it clear to the person whose behaviour is offensive, to an individual in a position of authority, or to both, that the behaviour is unacceptable.

5.   Any individual in a position of authority who receives a complaint is legally responsible  to ensure that the complaint is addressed, including notification to the individual accused of harassment.

6.   If a complaint is valid, appropriate disciplinary action shall be taken.  This action may include verbal warnings and Written Notice of Dissatisfaction,  a transfer, a suspension, a demotion, or termination of employment.  With respect to staff who are members of CUPE local 2545, sanctions shall be in accordance with District policy GDQ (CUPE Discipline).

7.   Staff shall not knowingly and/or willfully submit harassment complaints based on untrue or unfounded allegations.  Sanctions shall be as outlined in guideline number six.

8.   Harassment which occurs outside the workplace but which has repercussions in the work environment which adversely affects employee relationships may also be defined as workplace harassment.

9.   District procedures shall incorporate formal and informal complaint resolutions mechanisms.

10. While the confidentiality of both the complainant and respondent will be respected, there can be no absolute guarantee of confidentiality due to the need for the Personal in Authority to respond and take action if an informal or formal complaint is filed.

11. Staff shall have access to information regarding complaint resolutions mechanisms.

12. Contractors working in District facilities or on behalf of the District, have the same protections and responsibilities related to discrimination and harassment as District staff.  Harassment of District staff by contractors or harassment of contractors by District staff shall not be tolerated.

All contracts between the District and companies employed to complete work projects for the District shall include a clause stipulating that the company is responsible for ensuring that its employees behave in accordance with the District's policy on harassment while within the District's workplace for the duration of the contract.  Information about the District's position on harassment and what constitutes harassment shall be provided to contractors by appropriate management staff before work projects commence.

13.  Volunteers assisting in District facilities or during school related activities, have the same protections and responsibilities related to discrimination and harassment as District staff.  Harassment of District staff by volunteers or harassment of volunteers by District staff shall not be acceptable.  Volunteers are expected to behave in accordance with the District's policy on harassment while involved in volunteer work within the District's workplace.  Information about the District's position on harassment and what constitutes harassment shall be made available for volunteers at all District facilities.

14. The Superintendent shall ensure that individuals appointed to investigate formal harassment complaints have the required expertise and training.

15. The Superintendent shall ensure that the District's policy is reviewed regularly and complies with current human rights legislation.

16.  Notwithstanding the foregoing, the Board recognizes the complexity of relationships and interactions among staff.  This policy is not intended to intrude upon or eliminate mutually acceptable camaraderie and joking which regularly occurs in the workplace environment.

Definition of Terms:

1.   Harassment - Unwelcome, discriminatory conduct or behaviour, or verbal comments that focus on an individual's race, religious belief, ancestry, colour, place of origin, age, gender, family status, marital status, physical disability, mental disability, sexual orientation, or source of income. For purposes of this policy, harassment also includes conduct that disparages, humiliates or harms another person.  It may involve abuse of authority but does not include the legitimate exercise of an individual’s supervisory or administrative authority.

Harassment is not a relationship of mutual consent.  It is any action or repeated behaviour or verbal abuse that is unwelcome or intimidating and denies individual dignity and respect.  Workplace harassment may include:

a.   Sexual Harassment

i.    Unwelcome remarks, jokes, innuendoes, or taunting about a person's body, attire, or sex;

ii.   Practical jokes of a sexual nature which cause awkwardness or embarrassment;

iii.  Displaying pornographic pictures, posters or other offensive material;

iv.  Leering (suggestive staring) or other gestures;

v.   Unnecessary physical contact such as touching, patting or pinching;

vi.  Physical assault.

b.    Racial or Ethnic Harassment

i.   Unwelcome remarks, jokes, innuendoes or taunting about a person's racial or ethnic background, colour, place of birth, citizenship or ancestry;

ii.  The displaying of racist, derogatory, or offensive pictures or materials;

iii. Refusing to converse or work with an employee because of his or her racial or ethnic background;

iv. Insulting gestures or practical jokes based on racial or ethnic grounds which cause embarrassment or awkwardness.

c.    Personal Harassment

i.    Unwelcome remarks, jokes, innuendoes or taunting directed towards an person that creates a hostile or poisoned work environment;

ii.   Unwelcome behaviour that is based on grounds in addition to those protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Human Rights, Citizenship and Multicultural Act of Alberta.

2.   Discrimination - The denial of individual rights and freedoms in a manner that contravenes the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms,  Human Rights, Citizenship and Multicultural Act of Alberta, or this policy.  For the purposes of this policy, discrimination is any improper action taken against, or failure to take appropriate action on behalf of any staff member in contravention of the Human Rights, Citizenship and Multicultural Act of Alberta and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

3.   Complainant - An individual or individuals who submit a complaint.  A complainant may be a third party having knowledge of an incident of discrimination or harassment.

4.   Person in Authority - An individual who has supervisory responsibility, such as the Superintendent, an associate superintendent, principal, vice principal or anyone designated as a “supervisor”.

5.   Respondent - An individual or individuals against whom a harassment complaint is filed.

6.   Retaliation - Unacceptable behaviour exhibited by staff toward anyone participating in the harassment complaint resolution process and includes verbal abuse (such as threats or slander) and actions which are coercive, intrusive, disruptive, abusive, hostile, or threatening.

7.   Staff Member - An individual employed by the Fort McMurray Public School District and includes members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, Local 2545, the Alberta Teachers' Association, Local 48, contract personnel employed on a temporary basis to provide a specific service, and individuals occupying non-union positions.

8.   Union - Both the Alberta Teachers' Association, Local 48 and the Canadian Union of Public Employees, Local 2545.

9.   Volunteer - An individual or individuals who provides assistance of her or his own free will and does not receive remuneration for her or his services to the District.

10. Workplace - Offices, buildings, grounds, vehicles and any other location where the business of the Public School District is being conducted or social events or other activities organized by the Public School District.

Procedures

A. Complaint Resolution Mechanisms

Complaints regarding discrimination and harassment can be dealt with through an informal verbal complaint, through voluntary mediation, or by filing a formal written complaint with a Person in Authority.  If the person whose behaviour is alleged to be offensive is a principal or supervisor, complaints made be made directly to the Superintendent, or designate, who will assume the role of the Person in Authority for the purpose of these procedures.

These complaint resolution mechanisms are available to all staff, contractors and volunteers.  The District's procedures do not take away the right to file a complaint outside the District with the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission, union, or through civil or criminal court.

B.  Withdrawal of Complaint

At any point after filing an informal or formal harassment complaint, the complainant may withdraw the complaint.  Notice to withdraw the complaint must be in writing and directed to the Person in Authority who received the complaint if an informal complaint, or to the Superintendent if a formal complaint.  If the complainant wishes to withdraw the complaint, all actions to resolve the complaint through counselling, mediation or investigation will be halted.  The decision to withdraw the complaint is the sole responsibility of the complainant and made without any pressure or inducement from the respondent, or others.  Attempts to influence or coerce the complainant to withdraw the harassment are not acceptable, and if shown to have occurred, a range of sanctions may be imposed  by the Superintendent on the anyone determined to have influenced or attempted to influence the complainant to withdraw the harassment complaint.  The sanctions depend on the nature and seriousness of the offense. 

C.  Informal Complaint Resolution Procedures

1.  Making an Informal Complaint

a.  Information and Assistance

i.   Staff can obtain advice and assistance regarding strategies for confronting harassment at an interpersonal level by contacting the District's Human Resources Department, an union representative, and/or an Employee and Family Assistance Program counsellor.

b.   Making Objections Known

i.   Objections may be conveyed to the individual directly, or through a Person in Authority. 

ii.   Failure to make objections known through an informal, verbal complaint does not preclude the filing of a formal complaint with Fort McMurray Public Schools, the union, the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission, or the police.

c.   Keeping Written Records

To assist in addressing the issue clearly it is recommended that written records be maintained by the complainant regarding the incident(s) and of any attempts to inform the respondent of the unacceptable nature of the behaviour (directly, or through reports to a Person in Authority).

2.   Responsibility of a Person in Authority Receiving an Informal Complaint

A Person in Authority who receives an informal harassment complaint has a legal responsibility to take action to ensure the complaint is resolved.  Within 30 working days of the date the complaint is received, the following actions shall be taken by the Person in Authority to assist in resolving the complaint on an information basis, namely:

a.   Provide the complainant and the respondent with information regarding discrimination and harassment, including Board policy, guidelines, and the complaint resolution mechanisms.

b.   Assist the complainant in speaking to the respondent directly, or speak to the respondent on the complainant's behalf to outline the allegations and attempt to resolve the complaint informally.  The respondent is entitled to know the name or names of individuals making the informal complaint.

c.   Advise the complainant and the respondent that assistance regarding strategies that can be used in an attempt to end harassment and resolve the complaint on an informal basis is available to staff through the Human Resources Department and an Employee and Family Assistance Program representative.

d.   Meet with both the complainant and the respondent to identify or suggest ways the complaint may be resolved.

e.   Advise both the complainant and the respondent of the option for voluntary mediation, and if acceptable to both parties, arrange for voluntary mediation.

f.   If necessary, the Person in Authority shall take action to remove offensive material from the work environment or require that offensive or unwelcome behaviour cease.

g.   If the complaint is not resolved satisfactorily within 30 working days, the Person in Authority shall advise the complainant to file a formal complaint.

3.   When an Informal Complaint is Made Against an Individual

a.   A staff member accused of harassment may wish to consult with the District's Human Resources Department, an union representative or an Employee and Family Assistance Program counsellor in order to obtain information regarding harassment or seek assistance in resolving an informal complaint.

b.   If a complainant indicates that a certain behaviour is offensive, unwelcome or intimidating, it is expected that the behaviour will be discontinued.

c.   If the behaviour appears to be in violation of Board policy and does not cease, a formal harassment complaint may be filed.

4.   Voluntary Mediation

If the Person in Authority is unable to resolve the complaint, the complainant and respondent will be asked whether they are willing to enter into voluntary mediation in an attempt to resolve the complaint satisfactorily.  Through the mediation process, a mutually acceptable resolution of a harassment allegation may be worked out in which an educational and preventive focus is emphasized rather than sanctions or punishment.  The goal is to ensure that the harassment ceases and does not recur in the future.  If both parties are willing to enter into mediation,  a neutral third party acceptable to the complainant and the respondent will be appointed by the Person in Authority to serve as mediator.  If the informal complaint is not resolved through mediation, a formal complaint can be filed.

5.   Outcome of an Informal Complaint

a.   If a complainant confronts the respondent directly and resolves the problem at that level, no sanctions are applied by the organization.

b.   If a Person in Authority is asked to speak to the respondent and the behaviour appears to be in violation of Board policy and guidelines, a verbal or written warning may be issued indicating that such behaviour is unacceptable.

C.  Formal Complaint Resolution Procedures

1.  Responsibility of an Individual Filing a Complaint

a.   A formal complaint consists of a signed written statement outlining the allegations, describing the specific incident or incidents and the dates (if known).

b.   A formal complaint may be filed up to twelve months from the date of the most recent incident cited in the letter of complaint.

c.   The complainant is responsible for notifying the Person in Authority to whom a formal complaint is made if a complaint is filed with the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission, the union, the police, or if civil court action is initiated while the allegations are still under review by Fort McMurray Public Schools.  In the event a complaint is filed with one of the named external agencies, the District's formal complaint processes shall be stayed, pending resolution of the matter by this external agency.

2.   Responsibility of a Person in Authority Receiving a Complaint

a.   A formal complaint shall be accepted and processed by a Person in Authority over the respondent providing no more than twelve months has elapsed since the most recent incident outlined in the complaint.

b.   The Person in Authority who receives the harassment complaint is responsible for notifying the respondent and the Superintendent that a formal complaint has been received.  The respondent and the Superintendent will be provided with a copy of the formal complaint.

3.   Procedures for Dealing with a Formal Harassment Complaint

a.   An individual acceptable to both parties will be appointed by the Superintendent to conduct an investigation regarding the harassment complaint.  If three names in total have been proposed by the Superintendent and rejected, the Superintendent may appoint someone considered to be impartial and the parties shall be deemed to have accepted that person.

b.   The investigator shall conduct any inquiry he or she deems appropriate but shall, at a minimum, provide the parties with the opportunity to provide submissions and appear in accordance with the following procedures:

i.   The respondent will have 10 days to provide written submissions to the investigator in response to the allegations made by the complainant;

ii.  The complainant and respondent will have an opportunity to appear before the investigator to provide oral submissions.  The complainant and the respondent will have the right to one another's statements.  The investigator will have the right to ask questions of the complainant and respondent;

iii. The complainant and respondent may each have someone present to provide advice and assistance (e.g. legal counsel, union representative, colleague);

iv. The investigator's findings will be detailed in a report to the Superintendent;

v.  The Superintendent will provide a written summary of the investigator's report to the complainant and the respondent.

4.   Outcome of a Formal Complaint

The procedures for dealing with a formal harassment complaint shall be concluded within 60 working days of the date on which the complaint was filed.

a.   Investigation Findings Support the Complaint

If the results of the investigation support the allegations provided in the letter of complaint, a range of sanctions may be imposed on the respondent by the Superintendent.  The sanctions depend on the nature and seriousness of the offense. 

All correspondence and reports relative to alleged harassment shall be maintained in a file held separately for the duration of the investigation.  This file shall be retained by the Superintendent. 

If the investigation supports the allegations in the letter of complaint, copies of all supporting documentation shall be placed on the respondent's personnel file.      

Where the investigation results in the finding that the complaint of workplace harassment is substantiated, the outcome of the investigation, and any disciplinary action, will be recorded in the respondent’s personnel files.  The records will be maintained for ten (10) years unless new circumstances dictate that the file be kept for a longer period of time.  The Superintendent shall be entitled to exercise his or her discretion as to the period of time for which such file shall be maintained.

b.   Investigation Findings Do Not Support The Complaint

If the results of the investigation do not support the allegations, the Superintendent will issue a letter to the complainant advising that the investigation results do not support the complaint.  The respondent has the option of requesting that a copy of the letter be placed in his or her personnel file.       

All records of an unsubstantiated complaint shall be removed from the respondent’s personnel file and the record of the complaint which is maintained in the District’s complaints’ file shall clearly so indicate that the complaint was unsubstantiated.

c.   Investigation Findings Indicate Complaint Was Intentionally Based on False Allegations

If evidence indicates that the complainant knowingly and willfully made false allegations in an attempt to cause harm to the respondent, a range of sanctions may be imposed on the complainant by the Superintendent.  The nature of the sanctions will reflect the nature and seriousness of the offense. 

d.   Appeal

If not satisfied with the outcome, either party has the right to seek civil redress through the courts or to file a complaint with their union or the Alberta Human and Citizenship Rights Commission,  A complaint can be submitted to the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission providing that it is filed within twelve months of the most recent incident.

5.  Retaliation

a.   No member of Fort McMurray Public Schools staff shall take retaliatory action with the intent of dissuading or punishing an individual for participating in the complaint resolution process (i.e. complainant, witnesses, respondent, investigator).  Sanctions may be imposed for retaliation.

b.   Retaliation against individuals participating in the complaint resolution process is not to be confused with disciplinary action.

Legal Reference:

Alberta Individual’s Rights Protection Act
Charter of Rights and Freedoms       

Cross Reference:

GBEA Employee and Family Assistance Program
GDQ CUPE Discipline Policy

ATA Code of Ethics

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