The Respectful Workplace:
Discrimination, Bullying and Harassment Prevention Policy
- Policy Statement
SARA For Women believes that the working environment of employees should at all times be supportive of the dignity and self-esteem of individuals. The prevention and resolution of discrimination, harassment and bullying in the workplace is an essential component in the effective people management of an organization. WRSFV is committed to a workplace free from discrimination, harassment and bullying. Discrimination, harassment and bullying conduct, whether through person to person behaviour or via electronic communications such as email or social media is not acceptable or tolerated in our workplace. All employees will be treated in a fair and respectful manner.
SARA For Women recognizes that necessary elements of a respectful and fair workplace are:
- proactively training all parts of the organization including board members, staff, volunteers, and clients about the organization’s values, policies, and procedures;
- being sensitive to the potential for discrimination, harassment, or bullying or perceptions of discrimination, harassment, or bullying, and actively managing such situations when they arise;
- having effective complaint resolution procedures to address incidents of discrimination, harassment, or bullying if they occur, with the least disruption possible in the circumstances;
- moving swiftly to address incidents of discrimination, harassment, or bullying if it occurs; and
- having clear consequences for deliberate or repeated breaches of this policy.
The fundamental purpose of this Policy is to prevent discrimination, harassment and bullying from occurring in our workplace and to provide procedures for resolving complaints arising from this Policy.
Anyone who is found to have violated this Policy will be subject to a range of corrective measures, up to and including termination of employment or contract or removal from a position. Disciplinary measures may also be taken against any supervisor who is aware of a situation involving discrimination, bullying or harassment and fails to take corrective action.
This Policy is not intended to limit any reasonable action taken by a manager or supervisor relating to the management and direction of employees or the place of employment. The appropriate use of authority by a manager or supervisor in the context of issuing instructions, work directions, advice or any other normal requests related to an employee’s duties, does not constitute harassment or bullying.
Communication is key and SARA For Women has an “Open Door Policy” for all employees allowing them to discuss any issue, including discrimination, harassment or bullying, that may arise with the Executive Director or their supervisor.
Notwithstanding the Policy, all SARA For Women employees retain the option to pursue remedies under their Employment Agreement, the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal, and WorkSafeBC or to initiate civil or criminal proceedings. It should be stressed that if any employee chooses to initiate proceedings external to the SARA For Women complaint process under this Policy, SARA For Women is not obligated to provide representation or financial support for such matters.
- Scope and Application
This policy applies to all employees and independent contractors, both supervisory and non-supervisory and including those with a temporary status. It also applies to board members, interns, students, volunteers, external visitors and clients.
This Policy applies to behavior in the workplace or at any location or event related to work, including while travelling, at conferences, training activities or any SARA For Women-sponsored events.
SARA For Women recognizes that harassment, bullying and discrimination can appear in many forms. Harassing, bullying or discriminatory actions be carried out by someone with more power against someone with less power. The reverse of this can also happen.
- Prohibited Conduct
- Discrimination in an employment context is any behaviour or omission that results in an individual or group being treated differently based on their personal characteristics and for which there is no justifiable or work-related reason. Employees are protected from discrimination through the BC Human Rights Code (the “Code”).
The Code describes these personal characteristics as prohibited grounds, listed as follows: race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, political belief, religion, marital status, family status, physical or mental disability, sex, sexual orientation, age, conviction for a criminal or summary conviction offence that is unrelated to employment.
Employers have a duty to accommodate employees. Where a barrier exists, or a policy or practice has adverse consequences on an individual in a protected group, the law says that the employer should reasonably accommodate that individual’s difference provided they can do so, without incurring undue hardship, or without sacrificing a bona fide or good faith requirement of the job.
- Harassment can take many forms e.g. verbal, written or physical. It is generally defined as conduct or comment which ought reasonably to be known as objectionable or unwelcome, serves no legitimate work related purpose, has an adverse effect on the person or group of people, and is based on one of the prohibited grounds outlined above.
Examples of harassment may involve verbal, visual or physical conduct including: making derogatory comments or jokes; expressing unwelcome attention of a sexual nature; threatening or demanding to submit to sexual requests; making unwelcome physical contact; or sending offensive messages via email or social media.
- Bullying behaviour can be humiliating, intimidating, offensive, or persistent. It can occur through a series of incidents or a single, serious incident with significant impact which affects the self-esteem or dignity of an individual and impairs their ability to perform their work or creates a harmful work environment.
Examples of bullying conduct may include: picking on someone; voicing criticism/sarcasm that intimidates or undermines confidence; shouting; swearing (including gestures and comments); playing practical jokes; making rude, derogatory or offensive remarks on social media; making unreasonable/excessive work expectations; spreading malicious rumours or gossiping; or isolating/excluding an employee.
In order to conclude that discrimination, harassment, or bullying has occurred, the intent of the Respondent to cause offence or harm does not need to be demonstrated; it is the impact on the other person that is taken into account.
Harassment and bullying does not include the exercise of authority related to safety, providing work direction, counseling, addressing interpersonal conflicts, administering discipline, managing performance, delivering feedback for improvement or other supervisory functions for legitimate work purposes.
Comply with this Policy by not discriminating, harassing or bullying others
- Participate in training related to this Policy
- Report discriminating, harassing or bullying behaviour that is observed or experienced
- Participate in informal and formal resolution processes related to this Policy
Comply with this Policy by not discriminating, harassing or bullying others
- Participate in education and training related to this Policy
- Act as a role model to demonstrate behaviour that creates a respectful work environment
- Intervene when unacceptable behaviour is observed or reported whether or not a complaint is submitted
- Participate in the investigation and resolution of any incidents of discrimination, harassment or bullying
- Acquire and apply conflict resolution skills
- Assess the need to separate parties or adjust the working relationship between a Complainant and Respondent, including their reporting relationship and workspace locations.
- Develop and implement a Respectful Workplace Policy and accompanying procedures
- Provide annual training and education to support this Policy
- Implement informal procedures to address incidents of discrimination, harassment or bullying
- Assess formal complaints to determine whether an investigation is required
- Conduct an investigation, either internally or by appointing an external investigator
- Determine, and where appropriate, implement consequences/remedies from the investigation
- Review, on an annual basis at department meetings, this Policy and its accompanying procedures and reporting forms and provide updated copies to all employees.
- Provide a copy of this policy provided to all staff at the time they are hired.
- Complaint Procedures
Under this Policy, complaints of discrimination, harassment or bullying may be dealt with independently or may be reported to any supervisor or manager. An individual who brings forward a complaint (the “Complainant”) may have the issue addressed through direct action in the workplace or through an informal or formal process, as described below.
At any time, staff, volunteers or clients may provide comments to the Board of Directors regarding whether or not they feel SARA For Women is a respectful workplace and what changes may need to be made to this Policy or any other practices of SARA For Women.
(a) Direct Action in the Workplace
A Complainant who believes that he/she has been subject to discrimination, harassment or bullying is encouraged to bring the matter to the attention of the person believed to be responsible for the conduct (the “Respondent”). The Complainant may communicate with the Respondent verbally, but preferably in writing, and is advised to be accompanied by a support person when approaching the Respondent. The Complainant should describe to the Respondent the unwanted conduct, the effect of the unwanted conduct and request that the conduct stop.
(b) Informal Resolution
Where a Complainant does not wish to bring the matter directly to the attention of the Respondent or where this approach has not been successful, the Complainant may go to their supervisor or the Executive Director to obtain assistance in resolving the situation through an informal process. An informal process offers the possibility of resolving many work related issues that may be harassment or perceived as harassment in a satisfactory manner, acceptable to both parties. Such an approach has the advantage of addressing the parties’ needs, concerns and other interests rather than focusing on who is right and who is wrong. It empowers the parties to focus on solutions to meet their needs and often leads to the re-establishment of respectful working relationships. Informal resolution options include a facilitated discussion or mediation. At the end of the process, the parties will sign a letter of agreement stating that a mutually acceptable resolution has been reached and will be implemented. A copy of the letter will be kept in a confidential file kept by SARA For Women.
(c) Formal Resolution
If an informal process does not resolve the issue, if the Complainant does not wish to attempt an informal process, or if they do not feel safe to do so, the Complainant may initiate a formal complaint. The Complainant and/or the Respondent may, at any time during the formal process, seek to resolve the complaint informally with the assistance of the Executive Director, along with a support person, if needed. In the alternative, at the discretion of SARA For Women an external conflict resolution professional may be utilized.
If appropriate, the parties should be reminded of the option for informal resolution throughout the formal process.
The formal complaint process is as follows:
Provides a written complaint to the Executive Director, utilizing the Complaint Form (Appendix A) containing all of the following:
- description of the conduct or behaviour
- date(s) and time(s) when the conduct occurred
- identity of the individual responsible for the conduct
- identity of any witnesses to the conduct
- description of the effect of the conduct on the Complainant
All formal complaints must be made within six (6) months of the date when the last incident of the alleged conduct occurred.
Receives the Complaint Form and determines whether or not it is a possible violation of the Policy. If a possible violation of the Policy is found, the Executive Director will, within seven (7) calendar days, notify the Respondent in writing that a formal complaint has been made and of his/her option to submit a written response to the complaint using the Response Form (Appendix B).
A copy of the Complaint Form and this Policy will also be provided to the Respondent. If a violation of the Policy is not found, the reasons for this will be explained to the Complainant in writing. Complaints that do not meet the definition of discrimination, harassment or bullying may still constitute improper conduct and will be addressed promptly.
The Executive Director (alternatively, the HR Committee Chair) is responsible for managing the formal process and implementing corrective disciplinary actions, unless they are the subject of the complaint or investigation, in which case, responsibility lies with the Chair of the HR Committee.
Receives the Respondent’s written response to the complaint and provides a copy to the Complainant.
Arranges, as expeditiously as can be reasonably expected, for an investigation into the complaint to determine whether or not discrimination, harassment or bullying has occurred. The investigation may be conducted by an internal or external investigator.
Follows up regularly with the Complainant’s supervisor, board members, the Complainant and the Respondent to ensure that issues, concerns and needs of the parties are addressed throughout the complaint process.
Advises the Complainant and the Respondent at the conclusion of the investigation of the relevant findings and any consequences or remedies warranted in the circumstances.
Conducts personal interviews with the Complainant, Respondent(s) and any other witnesses the Investigator deems relevant. Either the Complainant or the Respondent may designate someone to accompany them during the investigation.
Gathers and analyzes all relevant information, documentary and oral evidence from all involved parties.
Reviews relevant provisions of SARA For Women’s policies, the BC Human Rights Code, the Workers Compensation Act, and any other relevant legislation.
Prepares a written report at the conclusion of the investigation. The report will include findings of fact, conclusions and recommendations and/or remedies. Complainant(s), respondent(s) and their respective manager (if needed) will receive copy of investigation report in writing.
Remains impartial and does not enter into a position that creates a conflict of interest.
An investigation will:
- be undertaken promptly and thoroughly
- be fair and impartial, providing the Complainant and the Respondent equal treatment
- be confidential and sensitive to the interests of all parties involved
- incorporate, where appropriate, any need or request from the Complainant or the Respondent for assistance. If either the Complainant or the Respondent retains a lawyer, they are fully responsible for any associated fees.
In the event SARA For Women utilizes an external Investigator, the Investigator will provide the written report to the Executive Director. SARA For Women will retain all records related to the complaint. Regardless of who conducts the investigation, a copy of the investigation report will be submitted to the HR Committee Chair, including findings, recommendations, corrective or disciplinary actions taken and any other follow-up (e.g. encouragement to seek medical care, counselling or policy reform). The HR Committee Chair will work with the SARA For Women Board Chair to review the investigation report and revise workplace policies or procedures to prevent or minimize further incidents.
In the event that the Respondent of the claim is the Executive Director, the formal complaint process will be forwarded to the HR Committee Chair who replaces the Executive Director in the process mentioned above, and is, in this case, responsible for managing the formal process and implementing corrective or disciplinary actions.
At all times, and notwithstanding the commencement of any external complaint or litigation, the SARA For Women reserves the right to commence or continue an investigation pursuant to the process set out in this Policy.
Retaliatory conduct against any employee who has accessed the Policy in good faith will be treated as harassment, and will be dealt with seriously, as a separate actionable matter under the Policy.
Retaliatory conduct is any conduct directed towards a SARA For Women employee based on that employee having:
- invoked the Policy in good faith, whether on his or her own behalf or on another employee’s behalf
- participated in, or cooperated with, any process or procedure set out in the Policy or
- associated with another employee who has invoked the Policy or has participated in any of its processes or procedures.
SARA For Women will endeavour to keep complaints filed under the Policy as confidential as is reasonably possible. However, disclosure of certain information/evidence may be required to investigate and/or
process a complaint; in some instances, disclosure to other persons or agencies of a complaint, or information/evidence pertaining to a complaint, may be permitted or required by law.
All participants in any complaint brought forward under this Policy must maintain strict confidentiality respecting any information or evidence touching upon that complaint. Accordingly, any deliberate and unnecessary breach of confidentiality will be considered a violation of the Policy, and/or a separate instance of harassment and/or retaliatory conduct, and may be subject to a range of corrective measures up to and including termination of employment or contract or removal from a position.
Confidentiality requirements do not preclude the ability of a Complainant or Respondent to seek personal support from coworkers.