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  6. Section 15: Workplace harassment follow up
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  5. Workplace Harassment Pocket Guide
  6. Section 15: Workplace harassment follow up
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  4. Human Rights Issues
  5. Workplace Harassment Pocket Guide
  6. Section 15: Workplace harassment follow up
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This section outlines steps for follow-up and identifies possible resolutions of the harassment issue.

POSSIBLE RESOLUTIONS

The resolution must be fair and consistent with Unifor policy regarding discrimination and harassment in the workplace. As a worker representative you will, no doubt, have a sense of what ‘fairness’ means in this and any other instance.

MANAGEMENT RESPONSES

If the investigation substantiates the harassment complaint, and if there is no way to satisfactorily resolve it without involving the employer, then the unit chairperson must take up the issue with management.

POSSIBLE DISCIPLINARY ACTIONS

Management may discipline the worker in one or more of the following ways, depending on past history and the severity of the complaint:

  • give the harasser a verbal or written warning about their behaviour;
  • require that the harasser apologize to the complainant, either in person or in writing;
  • require that the harasser take anti-harassment or human rights training, and/or get counseling;
  • suspend, demote, transfer, dismiss (in the most extreme cases, or in cases of repeated harassment
    where there is a record of progressive, corrective discipline for related or similar offences and where
    the worker can be reasonably expected to have known the consequences).

APPROPRIATE RESOLUTIONS

In cases where there is a joint workplace harassment policy, the union should agree to a fair resolution that considers the complainant’s needs and continues to respect the alleged harasser’s right to due process. If we agree to a resolution that results in the employer disciplining one of our members, we are unlikely to follow through with any grievance against that discipline. As a union we have a zero tolerance of harassment in the union and in the workplace. This means we take seriously our legal and moral responsibility to play a part in stopping workplace harassment.

It is important to note that workplace resolutions are handled on a case-by-case basis, and cases involving prohibited grounds may be subject to stronger disciplinary actions.

Before agreeing to a resolve, the union should advise the complainant and the alleged harasser of the general nature of the findings and seek input on the resolve.

MANAGEMENT INACTION

If management fails to act, then the union should grieve failure to provide a harassment-free workplace. If the complaint is not resolved through the grievance procedure, proceed to arbitration.

EXCESSIVE DISCIPLINE

Management may ignore workplace harassment until they are forced to take action. At this point, they may discipline the alleged harasser unfairly to simply ‘get rid of the problem.’ For example, the employer may fire an individual for making racial slurs, when a more appropriate action might be mandatory human rights training and a suspension. The union would then grieve the excessive discipline.

WHAT IF THE EMPLOYER DISCIPLINES BOTH PARTIES?

If management has put off becoming involved until things have gotten way out of hand, they might just dismiss both parties to try to make the problem go away. You need to absolutely insist on a full and fair investigation, and a full and fair resolution. Grieve “failure to provide a harassment-free workplace,” and grieve the discipline (if inappropriate). Specify a remedy, and provide details if the remedy requires a systemic solution (such as anti-harassment training for all workers and supervisors, negotiation of a joint workplace harassment policy).

WHEN TO GRIEVE DISCIPLINE

It is our responsibility to ensure that the alleged harasser, as well as the complainant, receives due process. Use your judgement: if the discipline is inappropriate, or if the complaint has not been substantiated, grieve it.

However, if the investigation evidence is conclusive, and if management appropriately disciplines a harasser, the union may decide not to file (or decide to withdraw) the grievance – as we do in other instances.

The member has the right to appeal this decision to the local. If the member loses their appeal, they have the right to proceed to the next stage of appeal: the Unifor National Executive Board (NEB). The written decision of the National President or the NEB would, if also appealed, be put before the Public Review Board. The PRB can hear an appeal on a grievance only where fraud, discrimination, or collusion is alleged. The Public Review Board consists of nationally recognized citizens outside the labour movement, whose decisions are final and binding. The member also has the right to file a complaint with the appropriate provincial or federal Labour Board, alleging that the union has breached its duty of fair representation. At this point, documentation of the case becomes especially important in demonstrating that the right process was indeed followed.

IN ALL CASES

Whether the harassment complaint is substantiated or not, the union should negotiate with the employer to:

  • work with the union to provide mandatory anti-harassment training to all workers (on employer time);
  • introduce remedies to improve the workplace environment (for instance, increase vigilance in removing pin ups, graffiti);
  • agree to negotiate a joint Workplace Harassment Policy (if there isn’t one in place).

Remember to send the Harassment Complaint Form and Investigation Report (including the resolution) to Unifor, President’s Office.

WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE INVESTIGATION?

Like other grievances, workplace harassment complaints can change the workplace. Many of these changes are positive and can include: training for all workers, a greater understanding among members and supervisors of the effects of their actions, or appropriate discipline for harassers.

CAN THE WORKPLACE ENVIRONMENT RETURN TO NORMAL?

For the person who made the complaint, things don’t always ‘go back to normal’. The union leadership need to ensure that the complainant is not subject to further harassment or isolation from other co-workers. By demonstrating your own commitment to ending workplace harassment, and by immediately squashing rumours and confronting backlash, you can help prevent a poisoned work environment.

Conflict and crises provide key learning moments. The way a union handles a harassment complaint will teach members (complainants, respondents, bystanders), and the employer, a lot about what the union stands for. When we make it clear to the complainant that we take their issues seriously, when we handle the investigation process with fairness, when we ensure due process and confidentiality, and when our decisions are governed by our commitment to building greater equality, dignity and respect in the workplace, then we increase the odds that the lessons learned will be positive and will build solidarity in the union. Harassment divides workers. We need solutions that bring workers together, united in our commitment to defend all of our members, their right to a harassment-free workplace and their right to fair representation. At the end of the day, we need to build confidence in our union; we need to know – and our members need to know – that we did the right thing and we did it the right way.

STRATEGIES TO PREVENT WORKPLACE HARASSMENT

Negotiate anti-harassment training for everyone in the workplace.

  • Post the Unifor Workplace Harassment Policy, the joint policy and the employer policy, in visible places, and in the languages used in the workplace.
  • Interrupt racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, ableist, anti-Muslim, and other slurs/offensive jokes.
  • Deal with harassment immediately.
  • Do monthly audits of your workplace. Report graffiti, pin-ups, etc., to management – it is their responsibility to maintain a harassment-free workplace.
  • Negotiate employment equity to prevent discriminatory hiring and job “ghettos” which create conditions for workplace harassment.
  • Limit speed-up, excessive overtime and repetitive, difficult, hazardous working conditions. All of these contribute to workplace stress which in turn creates conditions for workplace harassment and nundermines solidarity between workers.

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