Respectful Conduct Procedure

Purpose statement

The Town of Oakville (town) is committed to maintaining a healthy, safe and supportive workplace for all town employees that is free from discrimination, harassment and workplace conflict. This procedure is designed to resolve complaints and disputes in a manner that is respectful and maintains an employee’s dignity.

Pursuant to the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Occupational Health and Safety Act, the town will not condone discrimination or harassment with respect to race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, marital status, family status or disability.

It is the responsibility of every town employee to maintain a positive work environment by always acting in an appropriate manner in the workplace or at any work-related or employee social function.  Any inappropriate conflict or behaviour will not be tolerated.  The town will take the necessary corrective measures which may include discipline up to and including dismissal.

The town, as an employer, is committed to:

  • Zero tolerance of discrimination, workplace harassment/bullying and workplace conflict;
  • Resolution of discrimination, harassment and workplace conflict, as soon as possible.
  • Proactive communication and education regarding employee’s rights and responsibilities;
  • Conducting all aspects of respectful workplace investigations fairly and in a professional manner that respects the dignity of all involved;
  • Confidentiality wherever possible.

Scope

This policy applies to all town employees (including but not limited to full-time, part-time, students, volunteers, temporary and interns), elected officials, any individual representing or acting on behalf of the town in any manner (i.e. contractors, consultants) as well as every person accessing town property, services, events and programs.

Procedure

An employee who believes that they have been subjected to an action which is in contravention of the respectful conduct policy by another employee member in the workplace, should:

  1. If possible tell the offending person that their behaviour is offensive and against the respectful conduct policy
  2. Make a note about the incident including when it happened and who was present and any resolution

If the behaviour continues, the employee should keep a record of the incidents, dates, times, locations, possible witnesses, and reaction of the alleged harasser and bring this to the attention of their own supervisor or Human Resources where the offending person is the employee’s own supervisor.  Keeping a record will strengthen the case and help in remembering details over time. 

In some situations telling the offending person may be difficult or the concern may be ignored.  If an employee is unable to talk to the offending person or the concern is ignored they should notify either their own supervisor or the offending persons supervisor; once made aware, the supervisor is to address concerns immediately.  If the offending behaviour does not stop, the employee should proceed to filing a formal complaint.
The town’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is available to provide support for employees.

Reporting

Step 1

Formal complaints must be made in writing on a Respectful Conduct Reporting Form, signed by the Complainant and submitted as soon as possible after the incident occurred.
The Respectful Conduct Reporting Form must be filled out accurately and completely.  The Complainant may attach additional information or documentation to support their complaint.
All formal complaints must be forwarded to the Director of Human Resources who will determine if the complaint falls under the Respectful Conduct Policy and determine what investigation is appropriate in the circumstances within five (5) business days of receipt.

Step 2

The investigation will be conducted either internally by a town employee or by an external investigator at the discretion of the Director of Human Resources.

Step 3

Once the investigation is complete, the investigation outcomes will be reported to the Complainant and Respondent in writing.

Investigation outcomes

1.  If the complaint is substantiated, the Director of Human Resources or their designate will:

  1. Meet with the Respondent and if required his/her supervisor/union representative and provide written notification of the results of the investigation findings and outcome/corrective action which will be placed on their Human Resources Department employee file. Corrective action may include discipline up to and including dismissal.
  2. Notify the Complainant in writing of the investigation findings, that the appropriate action has been taken and that any further instances of offending behaviour should be reported immediately.

2.  If the complaint is not substantiated, the Director of Human Resources or their designate will:

  1. Notify the Complainant and Respondent in writing of the investigation findings and that no further action will be taken.
  2. If it is determined that the complaint was made in a frivolous or vexatious manner, the complainant may be disciplined up to and including dismissal.

Confidentiality and privacy

An investigation is a highly sensitive matter and it is critical to maintain the utmost confidentiality throughout the process.  This is important not only to protect the confidentiality of the matters at issue, but also to protect the integrity of the evidence.
During the investigation and resolution of complaints, all information must remain confidential except where sharing information is otherwise required by law. Anyone who is aware of, or participates in an investigation as a Complainant, Respondent or Witness, must keep confidential:

  • The fact that a complaint has been filed
  • The fact that they are being interviewed and the questions they were asked
  • The issues discussed with the investigator during their interview
  • Their opinions on the validity or nature of the complaint
  • Whether, and what other, individuals might also be participating in the investigation

Participants in the investigation may be asked to sign a confidentiality agreement.

Union representation

Union representatives have an important role in working together with the investigator and the employer in maintaining and preserving confidentiality, the integrity of the evidence, and the integrity of the investigation process.  As such, the same confidentiality and privacy requirements stated above apply unless limited disclosure is required for the purposes of fulfilling duties that may arise under the terms of the collective agreement and in the performance of legitimate union representative duties.

A Complainant or Respondent may elect to have a union representative present during their investigation interview(s).  Union representatives may not disrupt the investigation or instruct a Complainant or Respondent not to answer questions, except where there are criminal proceedings underway and there is a serious risk that the employee may incriminate them self.  Union representatives may not answer questions on behalf of the Complainant or Respondent; their role is limited to clarifying questions or providing support if the person being interviewed is unclear about the question being asked of them.

No retaliation or reprisal

A reprisal is an action, or threat, that is intended as retaliation for bringing forward a complaint or participating in an investigation process.  Such action will not be tolerated and will be subject to progressive discipline up to and including dismissal.  However, if it is determined that the complaint was made in a frivolous or vexatious manner, the Complainant may be disciplined up to and including dismissal

Definitions

Discrimination:
Includes but is not limited to unequal treatment based on one or more of the prohibited grounds under the Ontario Human Rights Code, except where conduct is permitted under the law.  Discrimination can be intentional or unintentional, direct or indirect with the result being an adverse impact on the employee based on the prohibited grounds.

Harassment:
Includes a course of vexatious comment or conduct that is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome. It may include but is not limited to:

  1. written or verbal insults
  2. unwanted remarks or comments on a person's mannerisms or body,
  3. practical jokes that cause embarrassment or endanger an employee's safety,
  4. behaviour that undermines or sabotages the employee's job performance,
  5. behaviour that threatens the livelihood of the employee,
  6. behaviour, conduct, comments or activities not directed specifically at an individual, but which nonetheless create a degrading, offensive, "poisoned" work environment. It may include, but is not limited to:
    1. circulating or displaying sexually explicit, racist or derogatory pictures, graffiti or other offensive materials,
    2. patronizing behaviour, language or terminology that reinforces stereotypes and undermines self-respect or adversely affects work performance or conditions.

Harassment can take many forms and may be directed at an individual or group of individuals. Harassment can occur in various types of communication, including face to face exchanges, email correspondence, written correspondence and the use of social media. Differences of attitude or culture and misinterpretation of social signals can mean that what is perceived as harassment by one person may not seem so to another. Behaviour shall be regarded as harassing if, having regard to all the circumstances, including in particular the perception of the person who is the subject of the harassment, it should reasonably be considered as having that effect.

Harassment also includes the following:

Sexual harassment:

Occurs when there is a course of vexatious comment or conduct against a worker in the workplace because of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, where the course of such comment or conduct is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome, or making 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. This may include, but is not limited to the following:

  1. Unnecessary or unwanted physical contact, ranging from touching, patting or pinching, to physical assault;
  2. Leering (suggestive staring at a person’s body), or other suggestive gestures;
  3. Unwelcome remarks, jokes, innuendoes or taunting about a person’s physical appearance, attire, sex or sexual orientation;
  4. Practical jokes of a sexual nature, which cause awkwardness or embarrassment;
  5. Demands for sexual favours or requests, particularly where privilege is implied; and
  6. Compromising invitations.
  7. A threat to job security or working conditions (i.e. advancement, monetary raise, etc.) for refusing to comply with sexual demands by a person in a position of authority

Personal harassment/bullying:

Personal harassment or bullying is any unwelcome, disrespectful, intimidating, abusive, cruel, vindictive or offensive behaviour, conduct or communications directed at an individual or group.  In some cases it may erode their self-confidence or self-esteem and it may create an intimidating, offensive or embarrassing work environment often referred to as a Poisoned Work Environment.
Personal harassment may include, but is not limited to: name calling, insults, inappropriate jokes, threats, shouting, derogatory remarks (including messages that are threatening, derisive, or defamatory), spreading malicious rumours, persistent criticism and exclusion.

Harassment does not include:

  • legitimate, reasonable management actions that are part of the normal work function that may include, but is not limited to appropriate direction, delegation, performance management, counselling or discipline administered by a member of management or a management designate;
  • professional debate;
  • attendance management;
  • relationship of mutual consent or mutual flirtation;
  • stressful events encountered in the performance of legitimate job duties;
  • occasional disagreements or personality conflicts.

Workplace conflict: Inappropriate workplace conflict occurs when two or more employees disagree on a matter which results in a disruption to the cohesive relationships necessary for a productive and harmonious workplace.

Complainant: a person who makes a complaint under this policy.

Respondent: the person against whom a complaint has been filed.

Poisoned work environment: This term is usually applied in circumstances where the work environment has become toxic because of pervasive discrimination or harassment, most commonly involving the prohibited grounds of the Code although not just limited to such.  The offending conduct must be persistent and repeated unless the incident in question is sufficient, standing alone, to taint the entire workplace. In other words, a stand-alone incident will not create a poisoned work environment unless it is particularly egregious.

Responsibilities

Employees are responsible for:

  • Working in a manner that is respectful to all
  • Refraining from harassing and inappropriate workplace conflict as outlined in this procedure;
  • Informing the alleged offender about inappropriate behaviour or actions, if possible;
  • Notifying the next level of supervisor/management not involved in the complaint as soon as possible about the alleged violation;
  • Cooperating fully and in a truthful manner in any respectful workplace investigation, and keep any information about the complaint and/or investigation confidential.

Supervisors/Managers/Directors/Commissioners/CAO are responsible for:

  • Providing an environment that is free from discrimination, harassment, violence and conflict – setting a good example and not participating in or ignoring harassment, discrimination, violence or workplace conflict;
  • Being aware of the potential for discrimination, harassment, violence and conflict and proactively intervening before problems arise;
  • Acting quickly and appropriately as soon as becoming aware of possible policy violations in consultation with Human Resources;
  • Cooperating fully and making their employees available to participate in investigations and other resolution processes;
  • Being sensitive to the nature of the complaint and implement recommended changes in the workplace;
  • Keep any information about the complaint and/or investigation confidential.

Human Resources is responsible for:

  • Training and educating all employees on the Respectful Conduct policy and procedure including their responsibilities;
  • Acting quickly and appropriately as soon as receiving a complaint under the policy;
  • Providing guidance on the policy to supervisors and employees;
  • Keeping any information about the complaint and/or investigation confidential.

Procedure details

Procedure Number: HR-MNG-008-002
Parent Policy: HR-MNG-008
Section: Human Resources
Sub-Section: Manage
Author: Human Resources Department
Authority: CAO
Effective Date: 2000 Jun 05
Review by Date: 2023

References

Appendix A - Respectful Conduct Reporting Form
Ontario Human Rights Code
HR-MNG-008-001 Rzone Procedure 
HR-MNG-008-003 Accommodation Procedure
HR-MNG-005 Occupational Health, Safety and Violence Policy
HR-MNG-005-002 Workplace Violence Procedure
HR-MNG-006 Employee Code of Conduct
Code of Conduct for Members of Council and Local Board Members
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005
Occupational Health & Safety Act
Any other relevant town policies