Respectful Workplace Policy

Purpose

To foster a respectful workplace through the prevention and prompt resolution of workplace harassment, discrimination or bullying.

Scope

This policy applies to all employees, volunteers, contractors and visitors at Seneca, including all full- and part-time faculty, support staff and administrators. It encompasses all work and Seneca-related activity whether performed on-campus or virtually, but may also apply to off-campus activities and interactions including virtual events in which individuals engage during the course of their employment or engagement with Seneca. This policy may also apply to off-duty conduct in cases where, because of the individual’s role at Seneca, the conduct could impact Seneca’s reputation and/or interests. Student actions and behaviours are covered by the Seneca Student Code of Conduct, but students may be affected by this policy as complainants.

Key Definitions

Complainant

Person who files a formal complaint in writing under this policy.

Discrimination

One or a series of action(s) or behaviour(s) related to one or more of the prohibited grounds, as defined by the Ontario Human Rights Code (“the Code”), that results in unfavourable or adverse treatment against an individual.

Domestic Violence

Any form of physical, sexual, emotional or psychological abuse, or threat of such abuse, between current or former spouse, current or former intimate partner, or family member. May include coercion, stalking, harassment or financial control. This includes the protection of employees in the workplace who are experiencing domestic violence that may extend into the workplace.

Individual

An employee, volunteer, contractor and visitor at Seneca or group of employees, volunteers, contractors and visitors at Seneca, including all full- and part-time faculty, support staff and administrators and, where applicable, students.

Reprisals or Retaliation

Adverse action taken against an individual for invoking this policy for participating or cooperating in an investigation under this policy or for associating with someone who has invoked this policy or participated in the policy’s procedures.

Respondent

Individual against whom allegations that could constitute a violation of this policy have been made.

Vexatious or Bad Faith Complaint

A complaint in which a complainant makes allegations knowing them to be false or submits a complaint for a malicious or vindictive purpose.

Workplace

Any location at or near to where work or work-related activities are conducted by an employee on behalf of Seneca through their duties, whether on campus, remotely or virtually. This includes but is not limited to physical work premises, virtual work environments, work-related social functions, work assignments outside of Seneca’s work premises, work-related travel and work-related activities.

Workplace Harassment, Bullying, Personal or Psychological Harassment

Repeated conduct or unwelcome behaviour that affects an individual’s dignity or psychological or physical integrity and which could reasonably be regarded as intending to intimidate, offend, degrade or humiliate or that results in a harmful work environment. Although it is generally evidenced by a pattern of behaviour, a single serious incident may also constitute harassment.

Engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct against an individual in a workplace that is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome.

Examples include, but are not limited to:

  • Unwelcome jokes, slurs, innuendoes or taunting;
  • Behaviour or conduct which might reasonably be expected to cause harm, discomfort, offence or humiliation;
  • Body language or gestures that are disrespectful;
  • Inappropriate communication via any means including email, social media and/or attainment, display and distribution of information from the internet;
  • Inappropriate, unwelcome touching  and advances;
  • Display of sexually offensive pictures or objects.

Workplace harassment does not include a reasonable action taken by an employer or supervisor relating to the management and direction of employees or the workplace.

For example:

  • Performance management, coaching, feedback and performance improvement plans;
  • Appropriate and justifiable disciplinary action;
  • Providing fair and reasonable constructive feedback;
  • Assigning additional work;
  • Voicing differences of opinion;

The prohibited grounds outlined by the Code are:

age, ancestry, citizenship, colour, creed, disability, ethnic origin, family status, gender identity, gender expression, marital status (including single status), place of origin, race, receipt of public assistance (in housing only), record of offences (in employment only), sex (including pregnancy and breastfeeding) and sexual orientation.

Workplace Sexual Harassment

Workplace sexual harassment is defined by the OHSA as engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct against an individual 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 making a sexual solicitation or advance where the person making it is in a position to confer, grant or deny a benefit or advancement to the individual and the person knows or ought reasonably to know the solicitation or advance is unwelcome.

Workplace Violence

Workplace violence is defined by the OHSA as the exercise or attempt to exercise physical force against an individual in a workplace that could cause physical injury to them or a statement or behaviour that is reasonable for an individual to interpret as a threat to exercise physical force against the individual that could cause physical injury to the individual.

Policy

1. General

Seneca is committed to fostering a climate in which all individuals are treated with respect and dignity and in which their human rights are respected. Harassment and discrimination as defined above will not be tolerated by Seneca.

To that end:

  • Every individual has the right to file a complaint of harassment, discrimination or bullying, participate or cooperate in an investigation, provide information relevant to the complaint or act under this policy without fear of retaliation or reprisal. The rights of both complainants and respondents will be safeguarded to the extent possible in the hearing of complaints.
  • Seneca recognizes its responsibility to deal quickly, fairly, effectively and respectfully with complaints of harassment, discrimination and bullying should they arise.
  • Seneca will take all reasonable steps to communicate this policy and will undertake an educational campaign on its provisions.
  • Where anything in this policy conflicts with any provisions of the OHSA, the Code or applicable collective agreements, the provisions of the OHSA, the Code and/or the applicable collective agreements will prevail.

2. Roles and Responsibilities

  • Employee responsibilities

    • Foster a climate of understanding and mutual respect, and comply with the terms of this policy
    • Where the employee feels comfortable:
      • discourage and report harassing, bullying or discriminatory behaviour
      • raise any concerns about workplace harassment, bullying or discrimination and report any violent incidents or threats
      • advise the individual engaging in unacceptable behaviour that their conduct is unwelcome and that the behaviour should cease; if necessary, seek support from a supervisor, a colleague, Human Resources or a union representative.
  • Supervisor responsibilities

    All supervisors shall:
    • Take every reasonable precaution in the circumstances to protect employees and ensure they follow the measures set out in this policy and abide by their obligations under the law
    • Advise employees of the existence of any potential or actual danger to their health and safety
    • Act on observations or upon receiving reports alleging harassment, bullying or discrimination
    • Review all reported incidents of harassment, bullying or discrimination in a prompt, objective, respectful and sensitive manner
    • Offer support and guidance to employees and, where appropriate, assist in facilitating resolution to concerns regarding breaches of this policy.

3. Prevention and Education

  • Seneca will provide educational opportunities to develop the skills and knowledge to prevent, document and resolve issues or concerns of harassment, bullying and discrimination .
  • Supervisors and others in positions of authority within Seneca will be made aware of their responsibilities under this policy and under the Code and the OHSA in creating and maintaining an environment free from harassment, bullying and discrimination. They will receive appropriate instruction on their responsibilities and the complaint reporting and resolution procedures under this policy.

Procedures

1. Reporting Responsibilities

  • Emergency/Crisis reporting requiring immediate response

    • A threatened individual or any person who becomes aware of a safety/security/threat in the form of violence, threat of violence, sexual violence or sexual assault to any person on Seneca property should obtain assistance by dialing 911, followed by Security Services by calling 416-491-5050 ext. 22565 (ext. 88 in an emergency).. If police are contacted first, Security Services is to be notified as soon as possible after the occurrence by the person who contacted the police.
  • Non-emergency reporting and complaint resolution

    • Individuals are encouraged to bring forth concerns of any form of harassment, bullying or discrimination whether based on their own experience, if they have knowledge of an incident or if they have witnessed such behaviour in the workplace.
    • Employees who are subjected to or witness violations of this policy are encouraged to report the incident to at least one of the following:
      • The employee’s supervisor or their next level supervisor if the employee’s supervisor is the respondent
      • Human Resources
    • Seneca may need to investigate complaints made under this policy, even if the complainant does not want to proceed with an investigation or wishes to remain anonymous, if the nature of the allegations or facts would be a serious violation of this policy.
    • Any employee(s) who make(s) a frivolous, vexatious or bad faith complaint under this policy may be disciplined. Breaches of confidentiality are violations of the policy.

2. Informal process

  • The early resolution of concerns, in some cases, can preserve or repair relationships and improve the work environment for all affected individuals. Individuals are encouraged to address issues as they arise for the quick, fair and effective resolution of complaints. This could be done by approaching the respondent directly to address the unwanted behaviour or by seeking support and guidance in addressing the complaint early from a supervisor, Human Resources or a union representative. Other resolutions may be undertaken with the mutual consent of the individuals.

3. Formal Investigation Process

  • Seneca’s Investigation and Resolution Officer is responsible for conducting fair and impartial investigations into incidents and complaints that are appropriate under the circumstances.
  • When a formal investigation is deemed appropriate, the Investigation and Resolution Officer is responsible for investigating reported incidents and occurrences of workplace harassment, bullying or discrimination.  
  • Investigations will be completed as expeditiously as reasonably possible.
  • The Investigation and Resolution Officer will contact the complainant and the respondent to advise them of the investigation process.
  • The investigation may be forwarded to an external investigator as determined by the Investigation and Resolution Officer.
  • Unionized employees are entitled to request the support of a union representative; individuals not covered by a collective agreement may also have a support person.
  • Both the complainant and the respondent have the right to discuss the complaint and the investigation or mediation details with a support person.
  • Any support person must keep all matters related to a complaint, investigation or mediation confidential.

4. No Reprisal Permitted

  • Every individual who files a complaint under this policy, participates or cooperates in an investigation, provides information, or acts in any role under the policy has a right to do so without reprisal or the threat of reprisal.

5. Confidentiality

  • Strict confidentiality will apply when reporting, investigating and resolving incidents and occurrences of workplace harassment, bullying or discrimination.   
  • Any individual who becomes aware of an incident under this policy should not disclose the details of the incident outside of the appropriate reporting channels.
  • The investigator must ensure that the investigation is kept confidential and that identifying information is not to be disclosed unless necessary to conduct the investigation, to protect individuals involved, to take corrective action or as required by law.
  • Complainants, respondents and witnesses have an obligation to confidentiality under the law and Seneca’s reporting procedures, unless it is necessary to obtain advice about their rights.
  • All parties involved in an investigation, including persons engaged in a support capacity, will sign a confidentially agreement.

6. Communication of findings

  • Supervisors and Human Resources managers, where appropriate, are responsible for following up with the parties and monitoring the outcome of a complaint.
  • The complainant and the respondent will be provided with a written summary of findings as soon as reasonably possible following the conclusion of the investigation.
  • If a violation of the policy is substantiated, the written summary will include any corrective action Seneca will be taking, including steps to prevent a similar incident from reoccurring.

7. Remedies and Sanctions

  • Corrective measures taken as a result of an investigation are intended to be remedial and preventative in nature and should attempt to make the complainant “whole” to the fullest extent possible.
  • An employee who is found to have engaged in any kind of inappropriate behaviour as outlined in this policy, including breach of confidentiality, initiating a frivolous or vexatious complaint, engaging in reprisal against an individual who has initiated a complaint under this policy, may be subject to corrective measures appropriate for the circumstances.
  • Seneca will impose remedies and sanctions as appropriate, including disciplinary action up to and including dismissal for just case.
  • Supervisors who were aware of an allegation of workplace harassment, bullying or discrimination, but failed to take appropriate action may also be subject to corrective measures.

8. Record Keeping

  • All documents related to complaints, investigations and mediations are retained as per department retention practices, and/or as required by legislated statute.
  • Reports or any other documentation related to investigations and mediations are stored separately from the employee file.
  • Only records of discipline or any other remedial actions resulting from the findings of the investigation are to be placed in the employee file.

Related Policies/Procedures