Canada Employment and Immigration Union -

Going to work shouldn’t hurt

Harassment is an unacceptable workplace practice and your union will support your efforts to deal with it. These pages aim at providing basic information about these practices and the options for recourse that are available to you. Links to sites with additional information are also offered.

If you believe you are being harassed, there are steps you should take immediately. First, record the behaviour of the harasser in a diary or journal, noting the dates, times and locations of incidents as well as any witnesses to the events. Solid evidence is required to support a harassment complaint, so build your file carefully. Second, resist all temptation to retaliate against the harasser; if you do, you may be seen as the perpetrator, not the harasser. Third, contact the union for help. Speak to a steward or local officer; if they need further assistance, they can consult with union staff representatives.

Harassment based on prohibited grounds of discrimination

The Canadian Human Rights Act sets out 11 prohibited grounds of discrimination:

3. (1) For all purposes of this Act, the prohibited grounds of discrimination are race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, disability and conviction for which a pardon has been granted.

In addition, the CHRA considers harassment to be a ‘discriminatory practice’:

14. (1) It is a discriminatory practice,

(c) in matters related to employment,

to harass an individual on a prohibited ground of discrimination.

(2) Without limiting the generality of subsection (1), sexual harassment shall, for the purposes of that subsection, be deemed to be harassment on a prohibited ground of discrimination.

While grievances can be filed on the basis of one, or more, of these prohibited grounds, it must be noted that you cannot file a grievance dealing with the right to equal pay for work of equal value.

If your grievance is put before an adjudicator for a decision, the adjudicator has the authority to interpret and apply the Canadian Human Rights Act (except for matters relating to the right to equal pay for work of equal value). In addition, the adjudicator can order general and punitive damages in keeping with paragraphs 53(2)(e) and 53(3) of the CHRA which read:

53. (2) If at the conclusion of the inquiry the member or panel finds that the complaint is substantiated, the member or panel may, subject to section 54, make an order against the person found to be engaging or to have engaged in the discriminatory practice and include in the order any of the following terms that the member or panel considers appropriate:

(e) that the person compensate the victim, by an amount not exceeding twenty thousand dollars, for any pain and suffering that the victim experienced as a result of the discriminatory practice.

53. (3) In addition to any order under subsection (2), the member or panel may order the person to pay such compensation not exceeding twenty thousand dollars to the victim as the member or panel may determine if the member or panel finds that the person is engaging or has engaged in the discriminatory practice willfully or recklessly.

See your union representative about the procedures involved with filing a grievance. Information about the grievance procedure is available here.

Personal harassment

When harassment is not based on prohibited grounds of discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act, it is known simply as ‘personal harassment’. The Treasury Board policy on personal harassment, Policy on the Prevention and Resolution of Harassment in the Workplace provides a route of recourse for cases of this type. The definition of harassment found in this policy is the following:

Harassment is any improper conduct by an individual, that is directed at and offensive to another person or persons in the workplace, and that the individual knew or ought reasonably to have known would cause offence or harm. It comprises any objectionable act, comment or display that demeans, belittles, or causes personal humiliation or embarrassment, and any act of intimidation or threat. It includes harassment within the meaning of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Complaints based on personal harassment

Members experiencing harassment of this type can access the Treasury Board policy to seek resolution to their problem. There are two routes of recourse available. The first is ‘early resolution’ which seeks, through the use of counseling, coaching and facilitation, to resolve the issues at hand. If this approach fails or is declined by those involved, a complaint can be filed. Members contemplating action under this policy should contact a steward or local officer for advice and assistance.

Grievances based on personal harassment

Members need not file a complaint under the Treasury Board policy to address personal harassment. Instead, the grievance procedure can be used, but grievances of this type cannot be referred to adjudication (where an independent third party renders a binding decision).

Before filing a grievance against personal harassment, it is especially important to consult with the union. In the event the grievance is not successful, it is impossible to file a complaint under the Treasury Board policy. The policy states explicitly that:

If a complaint on the same issue is or has been dealt with through another avenue of recourse, the complaint process under this policy will not proceed further and the file will be closed.

Deciding whether to grieve or to file a complaint is a critical decision; review the particulars of the case with your union representative to make the right choice.

The union’s role

Harassment cases fall into one of two categories: those in which the alleged harassment involves two members and those in which it involves a member and an ‘excluded’ employee (usually a manager). The role of the union is different in each case.

Where the alleged harassment involves two members, the union does not actively represent either member. Instead, the union’s role is to ensure that due process and fairness is followed in the recourse procedure used. The union will also encourage and assist the parties involved to resolve the matter at the earliest possible stage. If a finding of harassment is made and discipline imposed, the union will review the discipline to determine if it is fair and appropriate. If it deems the discipline to be fair and appropriate, the union will not represent the harasser if a grievance is filed against the disciplinary action.

Where the alleged harassment involves a member and an excluded employee, the union will play an active role in assisting the member. Direct representation will be provided in addition to ensuring due process and fairness.

The PSAC’s workplace anti-harassment policy includes direction on the union’s role in harassment cases and should be carefully reviewed.

Harassment in the union

Harassment within the union is as objectionable as harassment in the workplace. For members to participate fully in their organization, a harassment free environment must exist. Both the CEIU and the PSAC have policies and procedures to encourage and enforce such an environment. Whether at a local meeting, regional conference or national convention, members have the right to interact with one another in an open and respectful manner. When you attend union functions, a standard practice is the reading of a statement on harassment along with a procedure to deal with any incidents that cause a participant concern. In this way, the union attempts to create a secure and supportive organization that welcomes all members.

A final word

If you are being harassed, information is useful but support is crucial. Support is available through your union and there are a variety of ways to access it. Dealing with harassment on your own is difficult and often unwise, so make a connection to those who can help.

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