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Harassment and Discrimination-Free Workplace Policy

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    Preamble

    Recognizing the diversity of the Public Service of Newfoundland and Labrador, the employer is committed to offering all employees a workplace that treats people with dignity and respect. The Harassment and Discrimination-Free Workplace Policy supports a respectful workplace that recognizes and welcomes differences, promotes diversity, encourages communication and employee engagement, offers feedback and recognition, supports collaboration and team work, and provides a safe and healthy workplace for all.

    The employer is ultimately responsible for providing and supporting a harassment and discrimination-free workplace for all employees. All employees are expected to carry out their duties in a respectful manner.

    This Policy encourages managers and employees to deal with harassment and discrimination at the onset. This Policy does not restrict the employer’s right to manage the workplace. Harassment and discrimination do not include supervisory and management actions, such as the assignment of work, performance reviews, coaching, and disciplinary action, when conducted in a respectful manner and in good faith for valid reasons.

    For supplementary information about this policy, please refer to the information booklet, Maintaining a Harassment and Discrimination Free Workplace - A Guide for Managers and Employees.

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    Policy Statement

    All employees are entitled to pursue their duties in a respectful workplace. The employer will foster a respectful workplace through the prevention and prompt resolution of harassment and discrimination. The employer will provide a forum for resolving harassment and discrimination early and make available a means through which employees can seek resolution options to address harassing and/or discriminatory behavior.

    Harassment and discrimination are unacceptable and will not be tolerated. When harassment or discrimination has been determined to have occurred, disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal, may be taken.

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    Application

    This policy applies to all employees. Bargaining unit employees should also consult their respective collective agreements.

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    Definitions

    Abuse of Authority - a form of harassment which occurs when a person, usually a supervisor or manager, uses his/her authority in a manner which serves no legitimate work purpose. It includes misuses of power which are intimidating, coercive or demeaning.

    Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) – processes that usually involve a neutral third party providing collaborative, practical and innovative approaches to reach agreements or resolve disputes by such means as facilitated problem-solving or mediation (defined in more detail below).

    Bullying - a form of harassment which often consists of actions or verbal comments that are intended to intimidate, offend, or humiliate a particular person or group of people.

    Complainant - any employee who has brought forward or filed a complaint under this Policy alleging harassment or discrimination.

    Designated Human Resource Manager - this individual would be the Director of Strategic Human Resource Management or a Human Resource Manager designated by the Director of Strategic Human Resource Management.

    Discrimination – the refusal to employ or continue to employ, or to intentionally or unintentionally deny a right, benefit or opportunity on the basis of an actual or perceived prohibited ground of discrimination as outlined in the Human Rights Act, 2010. Discrimination imposes burdens, obligations, or disadvantages on an individual or group not imposed upon others. Refer to Appendix A PDF (95 KB) for a table of defining behaviours that constitute discrimination.

    Employer – as per the Financial Administration Act, the Employer is the Treasury Board, a committee of the Executive Council responsible for all matters relating to the personnel management in the public service and of a public body.

    Harassment – comments or conduct which are abusive, offensive, demeaning or vexatious that are known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome. Harassment may be intended or unintended. Refer to Appendix A PDF (95 KB) for a table of defining behaviours that constitute harassment.

    Investigation - the systematic and objective examination of the facts relevant to a workplace harassment or discrimination complaint. An investigation may involve interviewing and obtaining signed statements from complainants, respondents, and witnesses, as well as a review of physical evidence such as documents or emails.

    Manager – those employees who are responsible for the supervision of employees. Generally, this would include those with a position title such as Director, Manager or Supervisor.

    Mediation – a voluntary problem-solving process in which a neutral third party assists the parties to negotiate a resolution in good faith. Mediation may be held between two or more parties, is oriented to the future, and is not designed to lay blame, investigate facts, or determine guilt. Both parties must mutually agree to participate in mediation.

    Procedural Fairness - includes the right to be heard, the right to be treated without bias, the right to be informed of allegations being made and to be provided with an opportunity to respond to them and the right to information regarding the status of the complaint.

    Respectful Behavior – the universal duty to respect all people and accept the differences that diversity brings to a workplace.

    Respondent - any employee against whom allegations of harassment or discrimination are made.

    Sexual harassment - unwanted and unwelcomed behaviour of a sexual nature. Refer to Appendix A PDF (95 KB) for a table of defining behaviours that constitute sexual harassment.

    Workplace - the location where employees carry out their work duties. This may include, but is not limited to, office headquarters, work-related social events, external meeting locations, or conference settings.

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    Responsibilities

    Human Resource Secretariat

    It is the responsibility of the Human Resource Secretariat to:

    • Administer the Harassment and Discrimination-Free Workplace Policy;
    • Promote a respectful workplace for all employees;
    • Review and revise the Harassment and Discrimination-Free Workplace Policy and supporting documents as appropriate;
    • Provide interpretation and guidance to departments regarding the Policy;
    • Request and analyze information from departments regarding harassment and discrimination complaints;
    • Provide education, awareness and skill development training in harassment and discrimination prevention and interventions; and
    • Consult with the Designated Human Resource Manager to facilitate the investigation process, including the assignment and overseeing of investigators.

    Department

    It is the responsibility of Deputy Ministers to:

    • create and maintain a respectful workplace that is free of harassment and discrimination;
    • lead by example and act respectfully in dealings with employees and other persons;
    • upon receipt of investigation findings, make a decision and take appropriate action within a reasonable time period; and
    • consult with Strategic Human Resource Management and/or Human Resource Secretariat to discuss appropriate courses of action.

    Designated Human Resource Manager

    It is the responsibility of the Designated Human Resource Manager to:

    • provide expertise and advice to departments and individual employees about their rights and responsibilities under this policy;
    • receive complaints and provide suggested options for appropriate courses of action in a timely manner;
    • facilitate communication between the parties with a view to resolving conflict when appropriate;
    • oversee and monitor all harassment and discrimination complaints and interventions and ensure timely responses;
    • arrange intervention services, such as alternative dispute resolution or other services deemed appropriate to resolve the issue;
    • conduct or arrange for an investigation to be conducted;
    • facilitate education, awareness and prevention initiatives;
    • maintain a system to track incidents of harassment and discrimination and to evaluate the effectiveness of interventions; and
    • provide statistical reports to the Human Resource Secretariat, when requested, regarding incidents of harassment and discrimination complaints.

    Manager

    It is the responsibility of Managers to:

    • lead by example and act respectfully in dealings with employees and other persons;
    • monitor the workplace and watch for signs that harassment and discrimination may be taking place;
    • encourage early and open dialogue before inappropriate behaviour escalates;
    • address instances of harassment and discrimination as soon as they are known, even in the absence of a complaint;
    • receive complaints and provide suggested options for appropriate courses of action in a timely manner;
    • address all harassment and discrimination situations appropriately and ensure others act accordingly;
    • consult with Strategic Human Resource Management to discuss the appropriate courses of action;
    • participate in learning opportunities on the prevention, early intervention, and resolution of harassment and discrimination;
    • ensure employees are aware of the policy and procedures for preventing and addressing harassment and discrimination;
    • ensure that all employees have the opportunity to participate in available education and training related to harassment and discrimination;
    • monitor situations where complaints have been made even after corrective measures have been taken and ensure that individuals are not subject to retaliation for their involvement in a harassment and discrimination; and
    • follow-up to ensure the recommended actions are implemented within a reasonable time period.

    Employee

    It is the responsibility of employees to:

    • treat all employees with respect and dignity;
    • respect the diversity brought to the workplace by other employees;
    • challenge inappropriate behaviour/objectionable conduct when it happens and refuse to participate in that behaviour;
    • make their objections known to the alleged harasser or another appropriate person, such as their direct supervisor;
    • report inappropriate behaviour/objectionable conduct to someone in authority, such as the Designated Human Resource Manager or the direct supervisor; and
    • cooperate and share openly and honestly in workplace investigations.

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    Procedures and Resolution Options

    The most effective way to deal with workplace harassment and discrimination is to prevent such an occurrence from happening in the first place. Through education, awareness, and competency development, the employer will inform all employees of the Harassment and Discrimination-Free Workplace policy and promote a respectful workplace. When incidents do occur, early intervention mechanisms are preferred processes to resolve issues at the onset, when appropriate. Most issues can be resolved between the parties involved and these processes can be less disruptive to a workplace.

    The employer is required to expeditiously utilize best efforts to resolve incidents of harassment and discrimination. Therefore, when agents of the employer (such as, a Deputy or Assistant Deputy Minister, a Manager or the Designated Human Resource Manager)become informed of situations involving alleged harassment or discrimination, they may be obligated to intervene, even in the absence of a complaint. Even when a complainant decides to withdraw a complaint, the employer may be required to proceed with appropriate interventions.

    A complainant who makes a complaint under this policy that involves a falsehood or malicious intent or is otherwise made in bad faith shall be subject to appropriate disciplinary action.

    The Resolution Options outlined in this policy may not necessarily be utilized in the order presented in this policy. The employee is not obliged to use all of these options in the resolution of a complaint.

    The Public Service Commission provides supports to the implementation of this policy. At any point, employees and departments may consult with and access the staff of the Employee Assistance and Respectful Workplace Division of the Public Service Commission. The range of supports available includes counseling; mediation; conflict coaching; and organizational assessments.

    For additional information on the resolution options, refer to Maintaining a Harassment and Discrimination-Free Workplace. A Guide for Managers and Employees.

    Resolution Options:

    • Individual Intervention: The employee experiencing the harassing or discriminating behaviour may choose to approach the other employee, either in person or in writing, to advise that the behaviour is offensive and unwelcome and request that the behaviour cease. The problem may be resolved at this point and no further action will be required.

    • Direct Supervisor Intervention: The employee experiencing the harassing or discriminating behaviour may decide to discuss the behaviour with his/her direct supervisor. The direct supervisor must assess and determine the most appropriate action. Strategic Human Resource Management and/or the Human Resource Secretariat may be consulted at this time for assistance.

      If the employee’s complaint is against his/her direct supervisor or if the employee would prefer to speak with someone else, then he/she may consult with another person of authority, such as the level above the supervisor.

      Steps to resolve the matter should be completed in an expeditious manner. If appropriate, additional information may be sought or a discussion may be held between the employees to resolve the matter.

      The supervisor should continue to monitor the situation to ensure the issue has been resolved. Intervention may be required in cases such as when there is a real or perceived threat to the health and/or safety of employees, the alleged behaviour has impacted other employees or there is evidence that the complainant fears retaliation. This option may also be initiated by a direct supervisor or manager who identifies inappropriate behaviour and seeks to resolve such behavior before it escalates to harassment or discrimination.

    • Designated Human Resource Manager Intervention: The employee experiencing the harassing or discriminating behaviour may decide to discuss the behaviour with the Designated Human Resource Manager. The complainant may submit a written complaint to the Designated Human Resource Manager.

      The Designated Human Resource Manager, in discussion with the complainant, will determine the appropriate course of action, which may include, but is not limited to, alternative dispute resolution, conflict resolution, education, referral for the Employee Assistance/Respectful Workplace Program, accommodation, or formal investigation.

    • Investigation: The initiation of a formal investigation requires the approval of the Deputy Minister and consultation with the Human Resource Secretariat. The Designated Human Resource Manager will explain the formal investigation process to all of the involved parties, including the sharing of information gathered. An investigation must be completed in a timely manner. The following steps would be generally involved:

      • Step 1: Referral for Investigation
      • Step 2: Investigation Procedure
      • Step 3: Investigation Findings
      • Step 4: Investigation Review
      • Step 5: Recourse and Resolution

    For more information on the steps in an investigation, please refer to Maintaining a Harassment and Discrimination Free Workplace - A Guide for Managers and Employees.

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    Appeals

    In the event that the Deputy Minister believes the investigation was flawed and the findings are not appropriate, the Deputy Minister would request a secondary review by the Human Resource Secretariat.

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    Other Recourse

    Depending upon the nature of the complaint, the complainant may decide to request police intervention under the Criminal Code of Canada.

    If the complainant is a bargaining unit employee, he/she may seek the assistance of the union. The complainant may opt to pursue options available in accordance with the applicable collective agreement.

    The complainant may decide to file a complaint with the Human Rights Commission.

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    Confidentiality

    Respect for privacy is an important aspect of a respectful workplace. Issues related to harassment and discrimination should be treated confidentially; however, there are limitations to confidentiality. When agents of the employer, such as a Deputy Minister, a Manager or the Designated Human Resource Manager, become informed of situations involving harassment or discrimination, they may be obligated to intervene. Such incidences could include concerns for the health and safety of employees or the public or a requirement in law to report the matter.

    Complaints of harassment and discrimination will be received and managed in a confidential manner. Information will be used for its intended purpose only. Absolute confidentiality cannot be guaranteed as the resolution process must involve others. Only those people involved in the process, including the complainant, respondent, witnesses and others involved in resolving the complaint, will have access to the information collected. Further, they will receive only as much information as they need to receive. These individuals would be required to maintain confidentiality throughout the investigation process. Those who are found to have breached confidentiality may be subject to disciplinary action.

    In the event that a request for information is received, information would be released in accordance with the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act or as outlined above. Information could also be released as a result of judicial or quasi-judicial proceedings.

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    Representation

    Both the complainant and respondent may be accompanied by a representative of their choosing when attending meetings regarding a complaint.

    When employees are complainants or respondents in harassment or discrimination complaints and they seek legal counsel, the cost of this representation is to be borne by the employee.

    Last Policy Update: February 18, 2014

     
    Last Updated:
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