Respect and Safety In The Workplace - Harassment Policy

Type: Operational

Target audience: Employees, Volunteers

1.0 Intent

The Ontario Trillium Foundation is committed to ensuring a civil and respectful work environment free of any form of harassment, discrimination, or abuse.    This commitment requires that all OTF staff and volunteers actively demonstrate, at all times, a respect for others and an appreciation of differences.
Everyone has the right to work in an environment free from any form of harassment and unacceptable workplace behaviour.  Such behaviour towards an individual because of race, creed, colour, religion, country of origin, ethnicity, citizenship, ancestry, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, same-sex partnership status, age, marital or family status, or physical ability is unacceptable, and will not be tolerated. OTF will treat any allegation of such behaviour as a serious matter. 

2.0 Scope

This policy applies to all Board members, employees, volunteers, visitors, suppliers, independent contractors and employees of independent contractors at the Ontario Trillium Foundation.  This protocol applies not only during working time, but to any activities on or off OTF premises which could reasonably be associated with the workplace (e.g., social events).

3.0 Definitions

The Ontario Human Rights Code and the Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act (Bill 168, OHSA) sets out provisions regarding every person’s right to freedom from workplace harassment and discrimination.

Harassment is defined in the Ontario Human Rights Code as engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct, (eg. unwanted, offensive, intimidating, hostile or inappropriate) related to one or more of the prohibited grounds that is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome.  These grounds include a person’s race, creed, colour, religion, age, sex or sexual orientation, same-sex partnership status, marital or family status, citizenship, ethnic origin, ancestry, place of origin or handicap.  Harassment is a form of discrimination.

Workplace harassment, as defined by the OHSA, is broad enough to include harassment prohibited under the Ontario Human Rights Code, as well as what is often called “psychological harassment” or “personal harassment”.

Workplace sexual harassment refers to: 
(a)  engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct against a worker in a workplace because of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, where the course of comment or conduct is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome, or
(b)  making a sexual solicitation or advance where the person making the solicitation or advance is in a position to confer, grant or deny a benefit or advancement to the worker and the person knows or ought reasonably to know that the solicitation or advance is unwelcome; 

Discrimination is defined in the Ontario Human Rights Code as differential treatment based upon one’s membership in one of the groups protected in the areas of employment under the Code: race, creed, colour, religion, age, sex (including pregnancy) or sexual orientation, same-sex partnership status, marital or family status, citizenship, ethnic origin, ancestry, place of origin or disability, and which can result in unfavourable, adverse impact or preferential treatment.  It can also be defined as treating an employee differently and less than others in the terms and conditions of employment because of one of the prohibited grounds mentioned above.  

Poisoned Work Environment refers to one, or a series of comments or conduct related to any of the Ontario Human Rights Code’s prohibited grounds that may create a negative, hostile, intimidating, or offensive work climate for individuals or groups.  Poisoned work environment includes but is not limited to:  displaying of derogatory or offensive materials, patronizing or micro-aggressive behaviour, derogatory jokes, language or terminology reinforcing stereotypes which undermines the performance or threatens the employee’s career development, exclusions and other adverse treatment related to one or more of the prohibited grounds.

Micro-aggression in the workplace is typically defined as everyday exchanges that send denigrating messages to certain individuals because of their group membership, in particular Black, Indigenous, and racialized employees that can create a poisoned work environment, (see the guidelines).

The workplace includes, but is not limited to, OTF offices.  The workplace is extended to any location where staff and/or volunteers are required to be because of work demands, including OTF functions, site visits and other activities related to OTF’s business.

Reasonable Person Test: This is an objective standard to measure whether a comment or conduct is discrimination or harassment. It considers what a reasonable person's reaction would have been under similar circumstances and in a similar environment. It considers the recipient's perspective and not stereotyped notions of acceptable behaviour. This standard is used to assess complaints under this policy.

4.0 Guidelines

4.1 Summary of Key Roles and Responsibilities

As noted in Section 2.2 of OTF’s Occupational Health and Safety Policy, employers, management and staff share the responsibility for occupational health and safety. The shared responsibility concept is founded on the Internal Responsibility System. (IRS) IRS is based on the premise that workplace parties themselves are best to identify health and safety problems and to identify solutions.

4.2 Employer’s Responsibilities

OTF is responsible for taking every reasonable precaution to ensure the workplace is safe. These responsibilities include: Employers are responsible for:

  • minimizing the risk of harassment where reasonably possible.
  • ensuring staff are trained to:
    • recognize harassment;
    • follow the procedures and policies developed to minimize risk;
    • respond to incidents appropriately; and
    • report and document such incidents.

To protect a worker from workplace harassment, an employer shall ensure that: 

  • an investigation is conducted into incidents and complaints of workplace harassment that is appropriate in the circumstances;
  • the worker who has allegedly experienced workplace harassment and the alleged harasser, if he or she is a worker of the employer, are informed in writing of the results of the investigation and of any corrective action that has been taken or that will be taken as a result of the investigation; and
  • the anti-harassment program is reviewed as often as necessary, but at least annually, to ensure that it adequately implements the policy with respect to workplace harassment.

4.3 Management’s Responsibilities

Management is responsible for adhering to this policy and supporting the workplace anti-harassment program. They are also responsible for:

  • providing a work environment that is free from harassment. This responsibility includes actively promoting a positive, harassment-free work environment and intervening when problems occur;
  • dealing with inappropriate actions of others that come to their attention;
  • tracking and reporting incidents of harassment to the Joint Health and  Safety Committee (JHSC) and Management, according to the timelines set out in the procedures. The Harassing Incident Report Form shown in Attachment A to this protocol is used for this purpose;
  • ensuring proper medical care is provided to anyone involved in an incident and for securing the safety of employees, before investigating the incident ; or taking reports; and
  • co-operating with police, company investigators or other authorities, as required during any investigation related to workplace harassment.

4.4 Staff and Volunteers’ Responsibilities

Staff and volunteers are responsible for working in compliance with this policy and supporting program:

  • informing their Manager or Human Resources of any harassment they experience or witness. This includes issues in the employee’s non-work
  • life that might impact on the employee’s or a co-worker’s safety;
  • reporting to their Manager or Human Resources any incidents of harassment, according to the procedures set out in this protocol;
  • attending any training or information sessions provided by the employer to reduce harassment; and
  • co-operating with the police, company investigators or other authorities as required during any investigation related to workplace harassment.

5.0 Procedures for the prevention of workplace harassment

  • OTF has a number of measures and procedures to minimize the risk of workplace harassment and to provide a safe and harassment free work environment.
  • Working in collaboration with OTF’s Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC)the following measures that are in place formulate OTF’s Workplace Anti-Harassment Program.
  • OTF shall establish programs and procedures to reduce the risk of harassment in the workplace, (examples of which have been provided above). The program shall:
    • include measures and procedures for workers to report incidents of workplace harassment to a person other than the employer or Manager, if the employer or Manager is the alleged harasser;
    • set out how incidents or complaints of workplace harassment will be investigated and dealt with;
    • set out how information obtained about an incident or complaint of workplace harassment, including identifying information about any individuals involved, will not be disclosed unless the disclosure is necessary for the purposes of investigating or taking corrective action with respect to the incident or complaint, or is otherwise required by law;
    • set out how a worker who has allegedly experienced workplace harassment and the alleged harasser, if he or she is a worker of the employer, will be informed of the results of the investigation and of any corrective action that has been taken or that will be taken as a result of the investigation; and
    • include any prescribed elements
  • All employees are expected to be aware of and participate in such programs and procedures, as required. OTF shall renew its program at least annually and provide its employees with appropriate information and instruction on the contents of both the policy and program.

6.0 OTF’s Harassment Prevention Program

OTF’s Harassment Prevention Program shall consist of the following:

  • policies and procedures;
  • control measures in place/evaluation and implementation of corrective action;
  • communication process/instruction to workers
  • training and education; and
  • reporting and investigation process

Harassment or unacceptable workplace behaviour may include comments or behaviour by any OTF staff member or volunteer which is intimidating, offensive, inappropriate, hostile, hurtful or malicious, thus rendering the workplace less civil and respectful than it should be.  Any behaviour is unacceptable behaviour if the behaviour was unwelcome or the person engaging in such actions knows or should know it is unwelcome.

Behaviour inconsistent with a civil and respectful workplace includes but is not limited to: 

  • yelling and screaming;
  • bullying;
  • verbal abuse;
  • hostile displays of anger and loss of temper;
  • rude, demeaning, vulgar, belittling comments;
  • intimidation, coercion; and
  • forms of micro-aggression

In addition, unacceptable workplace behaviour which occurs outside the workplace, but which has repercussions in the work environment adversely affecting working relationships, may also be defined as unacceptable workplace behaviour.

Such behaviour may include, but is not limited to the following:

  • unwelcome jokes, remarks, taunting or innuendoes with respect to   race, gender, sexual orientation, colour, religion, or ethnicity, or with respect to a person's body or attire;
  • the displaying of racist, derogatory, or offensive pictures or material;
  • refusal to converse with or work with another staff member or volunteer because of ethnic origins, gender, sexual orientation, or religious beliefs;
  • behaviours that are abusive and demeaning;
  • leering, suggestive gestures, and unwelcome physical contact; 
  • offensive sexual flirtations, advances, and propositions;
  • displaying sexually explicit material; sexist jokes.
  • unwelcome comments that are micro-aggressive in nature

Harassment does not include: 

  • legitimate performance/probation management;
  • appropriate exercise and delegation of managerial authority
  • operational directives;
  • a disagreement or misunderstanding;
  • conflict between co-workers; 
  • work related change of location, co-workers, job assignment
  • appropriate discipline;
  • less than optimal management;
  • a single comment or action unless it is serious and has a lasting harmful effect; and
  • rudeness unless it is extreme and repetitive.

All employees are expected to conduct themselves in a way that promotes a civil and respectful workplace and that ensures an environment free of all forms of harassment and abuse.  Management is seen as part of the “directing mind” of OTF and as such have a responsibility to ensure that the workplace is free of harassment and/or discrimination.  Management is expected to maintain a work environment that is free of harassment, set an example by treating others with respect and dignity and demonstrating an appreciation of difference and ensure that this policy is implemented.

7.0 Procedure for addressing concerns/complaints

7.1 Reporting Incidents of Workplace Harassment

Staff and volunteers are encouraged to raise any concerns about workplace harassment and to report any incidents or threats to management, Chair of the GRT and/or the Head of Human Resources, immediately. 

If an incident of harassment is reported, OTF will review safety measures with affected volunteers or staff and implement additional measures, if necessary, to protect the individual/s. As appropriate, OTF may immediately report the incident to authorities and/or conduct an investigation of the incident.

7.2 Complaint Process

  1. Complainants will file a complaint with their manager/ Chair of the GRT and/or Director, Talent & Engagement.
  2. Talent & Engagement (or an external third party, if appropriate) will promptly investigate and review the matter.  This will include interviews and other means deemed relevant and appropriate to the situation.
  3. Talent & Engagement will prepare a written report to the VP, Operations, and the CEO, summarizing the complaint, the response and the results of the investigation, as well as any recommendations deemed appropriate. The investigation reports of the harassment incident are not provided to the JHSC or Safety Representative.
  4. The VP, Operations, and the CEO, are responsible for considering the report and determining how to best deal with the matter.
  5. Where a complaint is substantiated, appropriate disciplinary action will be taken, which can include suspension, dismissal and/or reporting the matter to the appropriate authorities.  The complainant and alleged harasser will be advised of the decision.
  6. Where the complaint is not substantiated, the VP, Operations and the CEO, will dismiss the complaint and advise the complainant and alleged harasser of the decision.
  7. Confidentiality will be maintained at all times to the fullest extent possible and practical.  However, OTF has an obligation to pursue matters and this will include communication of the complaint to the alleged harasser.  OTF also has an obligation to be fair to the person named in the matter and to permit that person to hear and respond to the complaint.
  8. The Director, Talent & Engagement, may at their discretion request the assistance of external resources in resolving such matters.
  9. Claims of harassment and/or discrimination, which are found to be vexatious or made in bad faith, may result in disciplinary action taken against the complainant.
  10. Nothing in this policy should be construed as limiting an individual’s right to seek external assistance from the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. A complaint made to the Human Rights Tribunal must be made within one year of the alleged offence. Staff also retain the right to exercise any other legal avenues that may be available.
  11. Threats of reprisal or retaliation against any employee/volunteer who participates in this process will not be tolerated and are considered a violation of this policy, the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Public Services of Ontario Act (PSOA) (OTF Staff and Volunteers are considered “public servants” under the PSOA and, as such, are protected against reprisals from any disclosure of wrongdoing).
  12. In the event the complaint alleges the CEO has engaged in harassment, the employee shall bring the matter forward to the Chair of the Board of Directors.  In the event the employee/volunteer is not comfortable approaching the Board, the matter shall be brought to the VP, Operations, and or the Director, Talent & Engagement, who will bring the matter to the Board of Directors. 
  13. The report will be submitted to the Chair of the Board if the complaint is about the CEO’s behaviour.

8.0 Posting of Workplace Harassment Policy

Workplace Harassment Policy shall be posted in a visible area (on the JHSC Information Boards).