Text Size

 

Harassment-Free Workplace Policy

Preamble

Ensuring all people are treated with respect, dignity and fairness is a foundational value of the public service. All individuals in the work environment share a responsibility for upholding this value and are expected to exhibit honesty, integrity, and a high standard of personal conduct that welcomes differences, promotes diversity, and provides a safe and healthy workplace for all.

The protection of individuals from harassment in the work environment is of paramount importance. The Harassment-Free Workplace Policy (hereafter known as “the Policy”) promotes awareness, prevention, and the appropriate and timely resolution of allegations of harassment.

Policy Statement

All employees are entitled to perform their duties in a harassment-free work environment. The Employer, in collaboration with all employees, is responsible for fostering a harassment-free work environment. Managers and supervisors are responsible for taking reasonable measures to ensure this requirement is met, regardless of whether a complaint has been filed. Failing to respond adequately to issues of harassment is, in itself, a violation of the Policy. All individuals share in the collective responsibility for a harassment-free work environment, including bystanders who witness harassing behaviours.

All individuals are entitled to a safe and accessible resolution process for complaints under the Policy. The principles of justice, fairness, integrity, and impartiality will be applied in any resolution and/or investigation of situations that arise under the Policy to ensure that the rights, responsibilities, and obligations of all individuals are respected.

The Policy does not restrict the Employer’s right to manage the workplace. Harassment does not include actions taken under this Policy or supervisory and management actions, such as the assignment of work, performance reviews, coaching, and/or disciplinary or corrective action, when conducted in a respectful manner and in good faith.

The most effective way to resolve workplace harassment is to prevent such an occurrence from happening in the first place. The Employer will inform all employees of the Harassment-Free Workplace Policy and promote a respectful work environment.

All individuals in the workplace are expected and required to conduct themselves in accordance with the standards and principles established by the Policy even in the absence of a complaint of harassment. Harassment in any form will not be tolerated.

Application

The Policy applies to all individuals in the workplace.

Actions taken under the Policy must follow the appended procedures (the “Procedures”). However, where a discrepancy exists between the Policy and the Procedures, the Policy shall prevail.

Bargaining unit employees should also consult their respective collective agreements.

Harassment

Harassment is defined as any objectionable or offensive behaviour that is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome. Harassment may be intended or unintended.

Harassment will normally involve a series of incidents; however, a single incident may constitute harassment if it would be considered egregious or severe to a reasonable person taking into account the circumstances of the incident.

Examples of possible harassment include, but are not limited to:

  • Verbal abuse, yelling, and/or making threats;
  • Making degrading or offensive comments, gestures, or jokes;
  • Spreading malicious gossip or rumours;
  • Inappropriate communication through social media, e-mail, or instant messaging;
  • Actual or threatened physical contact or assault;
  • Bullying or intimidation (e.g. sabotaging work equipment, interfering with someone’s ability to perform their duties, exclusionary practices, etc.).

Forms of harassment include:

Abuse of authority - harassment which occurs through a use of authority serving no legitimate work purpose.

Discriminatory harassment - harassment that is based on an actual or perceived prohibited ground of discrimination as outlined in the Human Rights Act, 2010, such as race, colour, nationality, ethnic origin, social origin, religious creed, religion, age, disability, disfigurement, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, marital status, family status, source of income, or political opinion.

Sexual harassment - harassment which is gender-based or of a sexual nature.

Examples of possible sexual harassment include, but are not limited to:

  • Repeated unwelcome social invitations;
  • Unwanted touching;
  • Leering or inappropriate staring;
  • Displaying or circulating sexually suggestive materials (e.g. jokes, messages, posters, pictures);
  • Comments about a person’s clothing, body, personal appearance, and/or habits;
  • Gender-based insults;
  • Derogatory conduct towards a person based on his/her conformity or non-conformity with traditional gender-role stereotypes;
  • Engaging in sexually charged discussions in the workplace (e.g. questions or comments about sexual activities).

Definitions

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.

Bystander – an individual who is not the subject of harassment but who has witnessed or is otherwise aware of behaviour which contravenes the Policy.

Complaint - is a complaint, which has been confirmed in writing, against an individual or group of individuals whose alleged behaviour contravenes the Policy. All complaints will be dealt with under the provisions of the Policy and Procedures.

Complainant - any employee or individual who has filed a complaint under the Policy alleging harassment.

Conflict coaching - one-on-one support with a Respectful Workplace Program (RWP) Coordinator to help an individual employee deal with a conflict situation. The RWP Coordinator will offer objective, non-judgmental feedback and will ask questions which give the employee an opportunity to reflect on approaches and consider ways to increase effectiveness in dealing with a conflict situation.

Day - for the purpose of the Policy, a day means a business day, not including statutory holidays. Days in which the process is held in abeyance in accordance with the policy are excluded from inclusion in the timeline requirements.

Employer - for the purpose of the Policy, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador is responsible for the management of personnel in accordance with policies and procedures established by Treasury Board as per the Financial Administration Act, and includes without limitation Department Heads, Deputy Ministers, and designates.

Employee Assistance Program (EAP) - is a service offered through the Employee Assistance and Respectful Workplace Division of the Public Service Commission (PSC). EAP provides assistance to employees and their immediate family members in resolving personal problems. The services offered are professional, confidential and readily available whenever the need arises. EAP strives to make a positive contribution to the well-being and growth of each individual engaged in the service, as well as the organization as a whole.

Exceptional circumstances - circumstances beyond the control of the Employer which interfere with the Employer’s ability to conduct an investigation, comply with timelines outlined in the Policy, or which may require modification of the Procedures.

Investigation - the systematic and objective examination of the facts relevant to a workplace harassment complaint. An investigation may involve interviewing and obtaining signed statements from Complainants, Respondents, and witnesses, as well as a review of relevant documentary evidence.

Mediation - a voluntary problem-solving process in which a neutral third-party assists the Parties to negotiate a resolution of an issue 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.

Parties – refers to the Complainant(s) and Respondent(s) to a complaint.

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 Workplace Program (RWP) - a service offered through the Employee Assistance and Respectful Workplace Division of the Public Service Commission (PSC). Employees can access confidential support and guidance on how to respond constructively to situations of harassment and/or conflict to explore avenues of resolution.

Respondent - any employee against whom allegations of harassment are made under the Policy.

Reprisal/Retaliation - any negative or inappropriate action taken as a result of an allegation of harassment, the filing of a complaint, or any participation in a resolution mechanism under the Policy. Reprisal/retaliation may include any negative changes in the terms and conditions of a person’s employment, including, but not limited to, transfers, changes in work schedule or assignments, negative performance evaluations, unwarranted discipline, harassment, denial of promotion or work schedule requests, denial of training, or any offensive behaviour or adverse action taken by one employee against another.

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

Responsibilities

Human Resource Secretariat

It is the responsibility of the Human Resource Secretariat (HRS) to:

  • Administer the Harassment-Free Workplace Policy;
  • Promote a respectful workplace for all employees;
  • Make recommendations to Treasury Board on revisions to the Policy;
  • Develop and administer documentation to support the Policy;
  • Provide interpretation and guidance to Departments regarding the Policy;
  • Provide education, awareness and training in harassment prevention and interventions;
  • Complete preliminary review and assessment of draft investigation reports (e.g. assess whether report corresponds to mandate, ensure evidence referenced in the report is appended, etc.);
  • Assist Departments in concluding issues arising from allegations of harassment, including those actions resulting from the findings of an investigation;
  • Provide appropriate training for Investigators and maintain a current roster of Investigators within the province.

Harassment-Free Workplace Manager (Human Resource Secretariat)

It is the responsibility of the Harassment-Free Workplace Manager to:

  • Plan, develop, implement and monitor the Policy and associated programs to address employee conflict and harassment complaints;
  • Provide advice in relation to the Policy and Procedures;
  • Act as a subject matter resource for the development of employee and management orientation, training, and information programs with respect to harassment-free workplaces;
  • Receive harassment complaints from employees, managers, or others;
  • Review complaints, identifying whether allegations are within scope of the Policy;
  • Advise Complainants of both informal and formal options available to address harassment complaints and confirm, in writing, the option selected to address his/her complaint;
  • Assist Departments in notifying Respondents of a complaint;
  • Advise any party or witness related to a complaint on matters pertaining to the Policy;
  • Coordinate the assignment of investigators when formal investigations are necessary into complaints of harassment;
  • Advise investigators on policy and procedural issues associated with the conduct of formal harassment investigations;
  • Maintain records of all harassment complaints and track progress through to resolution/conclusion.

Respectful Workplace Division (Public Service Commission)

It is the responsibility of the Respectful Workplace Program to:

  • Provide guidance and consultation support to managers and Departments;
  • Provide all employees with access to confidential support, guidance, and coaching on how to constructively respond to situations of conflict and/or explore available avenues of resolution;
  • Provide access to conflict coaching to help an individual employee deal with a conflict situation;
  • Assess and provide mediations and multi-party mediations by an impartial mediator who assists two or more Parties to reach a resolution to their differences in a respectful manner;
  • Assess and deliver facilitated discussions by an impartial facilitator who assists two or more Parties to reach a resolution to their differences in a respectful manner;
  • At the request of a Department or Agency, assess and provide group/team interventions through the provision of impartial facilitation services for meetings and other problem solving sessions which might benefit from such a process;
  • Provide harassment-related supports and services in connection with or as an alternative to harassment investigations as referenced in the Policy.

Investigator

When an investigation is initiated, it is the responsibility of the Investigator to:

  • Inform the Complainant, the Respondent, witnesses and support persons of the process that will be followed and their roles in the investigation, including the process for disclosure of statements/evidence in accordance with the principles of procedural fairness;
  • Conduct the investigation in a fair and impartial manner;
  • Respect confidentiality at all times;
  • Interview the Parties and witnesses and prepare written statements;
  • Review all statements and evidence collected in the investigation;
  • Prepare a draft investigation report for preliminary review and assessment by the Deputy Minister of the Human Resource Secretariat;
  • Prepare investigation report that provides an analysis of the evidence gathered and findings as to whether harassment has occurred in accordance with the definitions outlined in the Policy;
  • Submit the investigation report to the Deputy Minister of the Complainant’s Department;
  • Provide written notification to the Complainant and Respondent on the status of the investigation processes throughout the course of the investigation; and
  • Consult with the Harassment-Free Workplace Manager as required by the Policy.

Deputy Minister

It is the responsibility of Deputy Ministers to:

  • Create and maintain a respectful workplace that is free of harassment;
  • Lead by example and act respectfully in dealings with employees and other persons;
  • Upon notification of a complaint by the Harassment-Free Workplace Manager, consult with the Human Resource Secretariat regarding next steps;
  • Upon the request of Harassment-Free Workplace Manager, schedule a meeting between the Harassment-Free Workplace Manager, a Departmental representative assigned by the Deputy Minister, and the Respondent to inform the Respondent of the complaint and outline the resolution process;
  • Upon receipt of an investigation report, provide a copy to the Complainant and Respondent and allow for responses;
  • Following receipt of responses, make a decision as to whether to accept the investigation findings in whole, in part, or at all;
  • For investigations wherein the Complainant and Respondent work in different Departments, communicate findings of the investigation to the Respondent’s Deputy Minister;
  • Upon consultation with the Human Resource Secretariat, take appropriate action within timelines outlined in the Policy and collective agreement provisions, as required.

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 may be taking place;
  • Encourage early and open dialogue before inappropriate behaviour escalates;
  • Address instances of harassment as soon as they are known, even in the absence of a complaint;
  • Address all harassment situations appropriately and ensure others act accordingly;
  • Consult with the Human Resource Secretariat to discuss the appropriate courses of action;
  • Participate in learning opportunities on the prevention, early intervention, and resolution of harassment-related issues;
  • Ensure employees are aware of the Policy and Procedures for preventing and addressing harassment;
  • Ensure that all employees have the opportunity to participate in available education and training related to a harassment-free workplace;
  • 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 process under the Policy; and
  • Follow-up to ensure necessary actions are implemented within a reasonable time period.

Employee

It is the responsibility of employees to:

  • Treat all individuals in the workplace with respect and dignity;
  • Respect the diversity brought to the workplace by others;
  • Challenge inappropriate behaviour/objectionable conduct when it happens and refuse to participate in that behaviour;
  • Report inappropriate behaviour/objectionable conduct to someone in authority;
  • Cooperate and share openly and honestly in workplace investigations; and
  • Respect the confidentiality of all processes under the Policy.

General Provisions

Management Right

The Employer, in collaboration with all employees, is responsible for fostering a harassment-free work environment. Therefore, when agents of the Employer (e.g. Deputy Minister/Equivalent, Assistant Deputy Minister, Director, Manager, Supervisor) become informed of situations involving allegations of harassment, they may be obligated to intervene. In the absence of a complaint or the withdrawal of a complaint, the Employer retains the right to proceed with appropriate actions and/or interventions.

The Employer reserves the right, in appropriate circumstances, to hold a complaint in abeyance pending the resolution of any related judicial or quasi-judicial proceedings (e.g. human rights complaint, civil action, arbitration, etc.) or in exceptional circumstances.

Matters that have previously been investigated by the Employer shall not be reinvestigated, except in circumstances where it is deemed necessary and approved by the Employer.

Anonymous Complaints

Anonymous personal complaints will not be addressed under the Policy, but may be subject to a workplace investigation at the discretion of the Employer. Anonymity cannot be granted when a complaint is filed as the Respondent has the right to know and to respond to any allegations that have been made against the Respondent.

False Allegations

Accusations that are found to involve a falsehood, malicious intent, or made in bad faith will not be tolerated and will be considered a violation of the Policy. Employees who have made such accusations may be subject to appropriate disciplinary action. A complaint will not be deemed to be false, malicious, or made in bad faith solely because it is unfounded.

Bystander Intervention

Individuals who witness behaviour that contravenes the Policy have a responsibility to take appropriate action and report the behaviour to someone in authority.

A bystander who reports behaviour which contravenes the Policy will not be considered as a Complainant. However, he or she may be interviewed as a witness in the event that there is an investigation into the concerns raised.

Reprisal/Retaliation

Reprisal or retaliation against any employee who has alleged harassment, made a complaint, or participated in any proceedings under the Policy is prohibited and may result in disciplinary action.

Counter Complaints/Complaints Raised During an Investigation

Where allegations or counter-allegations of harassment are raised during an investigation, these matters will not be investigated without the approval of the Harassment-Free Workplace Manager.

Complaint Process

Personal Complaints

An individual seeking to resolve issues of harassment in the workplace can complete the online complaint form or contact the Harassment-Free Workplace Manager to submit a complaint. Complaints should be in writing; verbal complaints will be accepted only where they are subsequently confirmed in writing. The individual should be prepared to provide details such as what happened, when it happened, where it happened, how often, and who else was present (if applicable). The Harassment-Free Workplace Manager shall provide or facilitate any reasonable assistance that may be required for the completion of a complaint.

Where employees are, for any reason, unable to provide a written complaint, assistance can be provided by the Harassment-Free Workplace Manager who may complete the Complaint Form on behalf of the employee. In such circumstances, the employee shall be required to review and sign the completed Complaint Form.

When a complaint has been received, it will be assessed by the Harassment-Free Workplace Manager and, unless the complaint falls outside the scope of the Policy, the Harassment-Free Workplace Manager will acknowledge the complaint and schedule a meeting with the Complainant to review resolution options under the Policy. Following this meeting, written communication will be sent to the Complainant to reiterate these options and confirm the option that has been selected for resolution of the complaint.

Upon the request of Harassment-Free Workplace Manager, the Respondent’s Deputy Minister will schedule a meeting between the Harassment-Free Workplace Manager, a Departmental representative assigned by the Deputy Minister, and the Respondent to inform the Respondent of the complaint and outline the resolution process.

During the meeting noted above, the Harassment-Free Workplace Manager will inform the respondent that a complaint has been made, provide the respondent with a copy of the written complaint, and provide information about the resolution process. Where applicable, the Harassment-Free Workplace Manager will coordinate the resolution process based on the option selected by the Complainant and provide information to the Deputy Minister(s) of the Complainant’s and Respondent’s Department(s) as required.

At any point, employees may consult with and seek the confidential support of the Employee Assistance and Respectful Workplace Division of the Public Service Commission. Departments may also consult with Employee Assistance and Respectful Workplace Division of the Public Service Commission.

Bystander Complaints

A bystander can report alleged harassment in the workplace by completing the online bystander complaint form or contacting the Harassment-Free Workplace Manager to submit a bystander complaint. Where a bystander complaint is received under the Policy, the Harassment-Free Workplace Manager will contact the subject of the alleged harassment to discuss the bystander complaint and offer to meet to discuss options for resolution under the Policy. If the subject of the alleged harassment wishes to explore resolution options under the Policy, they must follow process for personal complaints.

Rights and Responsibilities of the Parties and Witnesses

Complainant

Complainants have the right:

  • To make a complaint to the Employer;
  • To be notified of their options for resolution of the complaint;
  • To be accompanied by a support person of choice (at own expense) during interview(s), provided the person is not a witness to the complaint and provided the person selected is not in a potential conflict of interest position by virtue of involvement;
  • To access confidential support through the Employee Assistance and Respectful Workplace Programs; and
  • Not to be subject to retaliation for the reason of having made a complaint under the Policy.

It is the responsibility of Complainants:

  • To submit a complaint within 12 months following the last incident;
  • To follow all requirements of the Policy;
  • To cooperate with all those responsible for dealing with the informal resolution and/or investigation of the complaint; and
  • To maintain confidentiality throughout the process.

Respondents

Respondents have the right:

  • To be informed that a complaint has been filed;
  • To be presented with the complaint and to be afforded an opportunity to respond;
  • To be accompanied by a support person of choice (at own expense) during interview(s), provided the person is not a witness to the complaint; and provided the person selected is not in a potential conflict of interest position by virtue of involvement.
  • To access support through the Employee Assistance and Respectful Workplace Programs.

It is the responsibility of Respondents:

  • To follow all requirements of the Policy; and
  • To maintain confidentiality throughout the process.

Witnesses

Witnesses have the right:

  • Not to be subject to retaliation because of participation as a witness;
  • To be accompanied by a support person of choice (at own expense) during interview(s), provided the person is not a witness to the complaint, and provided the person selected is not in a potential conflict of interest position by virtue of the person’s involvement;
  • To access support through the Employee Assistance and Respectful Workplace Programs;
  • Witnesses are entitled to receive a copy of their statement only.

It is the responsibility of Witnesses:

  • To follow all requirements of the Policy; and
  • To maintain confidentiality throughout the process.

Resolution Options

Complainants can choose to resolve their complaint through informal or formal resolution options. Informal resolution refers to mechanisms by which complaints can be resolved by means other than investigation, such as including self-resolution, coaching, mediation. Informal resolution approaches offer the Complainant a greater influence over the resolution process and the outcome. Formal resolution refers to the investigative process which involves an impartial third-party determining whether there has been a breach of the Policy.

Selection of the formal resolution option does not preclude Complainants from later deciding to pursue informal resolution or vice versa. Services provided through the Employee Assistance and Respectful Workplace Programs are available to Parties and witnesses at any point in the process.

Informal Resolution Options

  1. Individual Intervention: The Complainant may choose to approach the Respondent, either in person or in writing, to advise that the Respondent’s behaviour is objectionable and unwelcome and request that the behaviour cease. The problem may be resolved at this point and no further action will be required.

    RWP Coordinators can arrange to provide support and coaching to Complainants who choose to pursue individual intervention.

 

  1. Management Intervention: The Complainant may choose to have the Manager approach the Respondent to advise that the Respondent’s behaviour is unwelcome to the Complainant. If the complaint is against the Manager, then the Complainant may request intervention by the next level of management.

    Where this option is selected by the Complainant, the manager must consult the Human Resource Secretariat for guidance. The manager should continue to monitor the situation to ensure the issue has been resolved.

 

  1. Respectful Workplace Division (RWD) Intervention: The Complainant may choose to access resolution assistance through RWP. Assistance through RWP may be in the form of consultation, personal support, problem solving, help with assertiveness skills, or a discussion about the conflict resolution choices available to the individual. In addition, RWP may recommend one or more of the following approaches:
    • Conflict Coaching: Conflict coaching is one-on-one support to help an individual employee deal with a conflict situation. The employee is encouraged to build on their own skills to constructively respond to situations of conflict and/or explore available avenues of resolution. The coach does not provide advice, but will offer objective, non-judgmental feedback and will ask questions so that clients are given the opportunity to reflect on their approaches and consider ways to increase their effectiveness in dealing with a conflict situation.
    • Facilitated Discussions: The process is conducted by an impartial facilitator who assists Parties to reach a resolution in a respectful manner. Facilitated discussion is typically less formal and less structured than mediation, but provides a safe environment for a constructive conversation. The facilitator will first meet individually with each of the Parties involved to assess readiness and provide information on the process. If appropriate, a facilitated discussion will be scheduled.
    • Mediation: The mediation process is conducted by an impartial mediator who assists Parties to reach a resolution in a respectful manner. The mediator will first meet individually with each of the Parties involved to assess readiness and provide information on the mediation process. If deemed appropriate, mediation will be scheduled.
    Informal resolution services and programs offered by the Respectful Workplace Program are confidential. For example, all information discussed in a mediation session will be held in confidence, by both Parties and the mediator, unless there is agreement between the Parties and/or with the mediator as to what information may be released. Procedural updates on meeting times and general progress will be provided to the referral source upon request. However, if the Parties disclose any allegations of fraudulent, criminal activities, serious harassment (as per the professional judgment of the RWP Coordinator), or violation of any law, the RWP Coordinator will encourage the Parties to report the matter, or the RWP Coordinator will report the allegations should the Parties not do so.

    Employees who would like further information on RWP Intervention are encouraged to contact a Respectful Workplace Coordinator.

Formal Resolution Option

Investigation: The Complainant may choose to pursue resolution through a formal investigation which involves an impartial third-party Investigator determining whether there has been a breach of the Policy. The investigation process is conducted following the principles of procedural fairness and natural justice. The following steps would generally be involved:

  • An Investigator reviews the complaint;
  • An Investigator interviews the Complainant, prepares a written statement, and collects supporting documentation, if applicable;
  • An Investigator discloses the Complainant’s statement and supporting documentation to the Respondent;
  • An Investigator interviews the Respondent, prepares a written statement, and collects supporting documentation, if applicable;
  • An Investigator identifies witnesses, interviews witnesses, prepares written statements, and collects supporting documentation, if applicable;
  • An Investigator may take other actions deemed to be necessary for the purpose of the investigation (e.g. site visit, requests for information from third party, confirmation of records, etc.);
  • An Investigator discloses all statements and relevant evidence to the Complainant and the Respondent and provides an opportunity to respond;
  • An Investigator prepares a draft report and submits it to the Harassment-Free Workplace Manager who will review the report to ensure compliance with mandate and that any documentation referenced in the report has been appended;
  • The Harassment-Free Workplace Manager shall submit the report to the Deputy Minister of the Complainant’s Department;
  • Upon receipt of investigation report, the Deputy Minister of the Complainant’s Department provides a copy to the Complainant and Respondent and provides an opportunity to respond;
  • The Deputy Minister of the Complainant’s Department makes a decision whether to accept the investigation findings in whole, in part, or at all, and advises the Deputy Minister of the Respondent’s Department, if applicable;
  • The Deputy Minister(s) advises the Complainant and the Respondent of the findings in writing; and
  • The Deputy Minister(s), in consultation with the Human Resource Secretariat, determines necessary corrective and/or disciplinary actions and provides any required notifications.

Principles considered by investigators in making investigation findings include, but are not limited to, the following:

  1. The onus or burden of proof rests with the person making the statement;
  2. The onus of proof is a balance of probabilities (i.e. it is more likely than not that the allegations/statements are founded/unfounded);
  3. Corroborating evidence is relevant, but is not required to make a factual determination;
  4. Issues of credibility may be considered and relied upon by investigators;
  5. Admissions do not require proof and can be assumed as fact;
  6. Denials will be considered in the context of relevant evidence;
  7. When weighing evidence, facts are more likely when actions and statements are consistent and less so when such consistency is absent.

Timelines

Complaints must be acted upon and resolved as soon as reasonably possible. The following timelines are a requirement of the Policy:

  • The timeline for the submission of a complaint is twelve months following the last incident, which may be extended at the discretion of the Harassment-Free Workplace Manager, if satisfied that there is a reasonable justification for not having brought the matter forward earlier.
  • Following receipt of a complaint, the Harassment-Free Workplace Manager will acknowledge the complaint in writing and schedule a meeting with the Complainant to discuss resolution options within five days.
  • The Harassment-Free Workplace Manager will also notify the Deputy Minister(s) of the Complainant’s and Respondent’s Department(s) of the complaint within five days of receipt of complaint.
  • Upon request of the Harassment-Free Workplace Manager, the Deputy Minister of the Respondent’s Department shall schedule a meeting between the Harassment-Free Workplace Manager, a Departmental representative assigned by the Deputy Minister, and the Respondent within five days.

Informal Resolution

  • Following the selection of an informal resolution option by the Complainant, the resolution process shall be initiated within 15 days.
  • Timelines for informal resolution through the Respectful Workplace Program will be determined by the RWP Coordinator, in consultation with the Parties, based on the situation. Informal resolution options offered by RWP, such as mediation, are subject to pre-participation assessment, preparation of the Parties, and the process itself.

Formal Resolution

  • Following the selection of the formal resolution option by the Complainant, the appointment of investigator shall be completed within 10 days.
  • Investigation shall commence within 5 days of receipt of the complaint by the investigator and shall be completed (i.e. final report submitted to the Deputy Minister of the Complainant’s Department) within 90 days.
  • Following receipt of the report, the Deputy Minister of the Complainant’s Department shall provide a copy to the Complainant and Respondent for review within 5 days.
  • The Complainant and Respondent shall have 14 days to respond to the report.
  • Following the expiry of the 14 day response period or the receipt of all responses by the Deputy Minister of the Complainant’s Department, whichever occurs first, the Deputy Minister of the Complainant’s Department shall within 15 days:
    • Make a decision as to whether to accept the investigation findings in whole, in part, or at all;
    • In consultation with the Deputy Minister of the Respondent’s Department, if applicable, communicate the decision made to the Complainant and Respondent.
    • Provide a copy of the investigation report and communicate the decision made to the Deputy Minister of the Respondent’s Department, if applicable, at the earliest possible opportunity.
  • Timelines will be suspended if, at any time, the Complainant opts to pursue informal resolution options.

Bargaining unit employees should also consult their respective collective agreement and, where there is a conflict in timelines, the collective agreement shall prevail.

Should delays in the process be unavoidable, due to exceptional circumstances as defined within the Policy, the Complainant and/or Respondent will be advised in writing of the reasons for the delay and the impact on the required timelines.

Other Recourse

Depending upon the nature of the complaint, the Complainant may decide to take other actions outside the scope of the Policy (e.g. criminal complaint, human rights complaint, grievance). Individuals retain the right to pursue appropriate avenues of legal redress. It is not the role of the Harassment-Free Workplace Manager to identify any remedies or processes that are or may be available outside the Policy and individuals are solely responsible for exploring such options should the individual choose to do so.

Confidentiality

Respect for privacy is an important aspect of a respectful workplace. Issues related to harassment will be treated confidentially; however, there are limitations to confidentiality. Absolute confidentiality cannot be guaranteed as resolution processes must involve others. In addition, when agents of the Employer (e.g. Deputy Minister/Equivalent, Assistant Deputy Minister, Director, Manager, Supervisor) become informed of situations involving harassment, they may be obligated to intervene.

Complaints of harassment will be received and managed in a confidential manner. Information will be used for its intended purpose only. All individuals are required to maintain confidentiality when involved in processes under the Policy. Those who are found to have breached confidentiality may be subject to disciplinary action. At all times, the privacy of Parties will be respected; individuals will not be privy to disciplinary and/or corrective information regarding others.

Records Management

Disclosure of information shall be in accordance with the Policy and the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act. Complainants and Respondents shall be entitled to receive copies of all statements and relevant documentary evidence collected in the course of an investigation. Witnesses shall only be entitled to receive a copy of their statement.

In the event that a request for information is received, information will be released in accordance with the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act or as otherwise required by law.

Following the conclusion of a complaint and/or resolution process and any associated corrective and/or disciplinary action, Departments shall provide copies of all records created or gathered in relation to the process to the Harassment-Free Workplace Manager for file review, audit, and closure purposes.

All records will be managed in accordance with approved records retention and disposition schedules.

Representation

  • Parties and witnesses may be accompanied by a support person of their choosing when attending meetings regarding a complaint, provided the person is not a witness to the complaint and provided the person selected is not in a potential conflict of interest position by virtue of involvement. The support person shall not interfere with the proceedings in any way the support person’s primary role is to provide support and guidance to the person being interviewed.

Bargaining unit employees are entitled to union representation as outlined in their respective collective agreements.

In no instance shall the Employer be responsible for the cost of legal counsel and/or other representation retained by an employee.

Restoring the Workplace

When allegations of harassment are made, the Employer must often make efforts to re-establish a respectful and productive work environment. Early engagement in the restoration of a workplace is an important responsibility of management that requires cooperation by all employees. Departments should consult with the Human Resource Secretariat regarding appropriate actions, which may vary dependent on specific circumstances and could include interim measures pending resolution of a complaint. The Respectful Workplace Program is also available to provide group/team support and intervention.

Monitoring

The Deputy Minister of the Human Resource Secretariat will evaluate the performance of the Policy and compliance with the provisions contained within on an annual basis.

Contact and Assistance

For more information, please contact the Harassment-Free Workplace Manager at 1-888-729-7690 (toll-free) or 709-729-2497 (St. John's and area).

To engage the support of the Employee Assistance or Respectful Workplace Programs, please call 1-888-729-2290.

Procedures

Harassment Complaint Fillable Form - (Please ensure you are viewing in Internet Explorer 11 and have the most recent version of Adobe® Acrobat® Reader software in order to properly view this PDF document - Download Acrobat® Reader for free opens in new window.)

Harassment Complaint PDF Form

Bystander Complaint Fillable Form - (Please ensure you are viewing in Internet Explorer 11 and have the most recent version of Adobe® Acrobat® Reader software in order to properly view this PDF document - Download Acrobat® Reader for free opens in new window.)

Bystander Complaint PDF Form

Adobe® Acrobat® Reader software can be used for viewing PDF documents Download Acrobat® Reader for free opens in new window.

 
Last Updated:
This page and all contents are copyright, Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, all rights reserved.