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Respectful Working Environments

  • Code: FBCA.AR
    Topic: Respectful Working Environments
    Issue Date: 18/12/2015
    Effective Date: 30/04/2013
    Review Year: 2018

Definitions

Respect means to demonstrate regard for the rights of others.

Discrimination means refusing to provide an opportunity or benefit with respect to access to any term or condition of employment because of race, religious beliefs, gender, physical disability, sexual orientation, mental disability, marital status, family status, age, ancestry, place of origin, or source of income.

The behaviour giving rise to a complaint of discrimination need not be intentional in order to be considered discrimination.

With reference to employment, the above does not apply to a refusal, limitation, specification or preference based on a bona fide occupation requirement.

Harassment occurs when an individual is subjected to unwelcome verbal or physical conduct because of race, religious beliefs, gender, physical disability, mental disability, marital status, family status, source of income, age, ancestry, colour, place of origin, or sexual orientation.

Examples of harassment which will not be tolerated in Edmonton Public Schools include: verbal or physical abuse, threats, derogatory remarks, jokes, innuendo or taunts which allude to any of the above categories. Edmonton Public Schools also will not tolerate the display of pornographic, racist or offensive signs or images, practical jokes that result in awkwardness or embarrassment, whether indirect or explicit.

Sexual harassment is any unwelcome behaviour that is sexual in nature. Unwanted sexual advances, unwanted requests for sexual acts, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when:

  1. Such conduct undermines another individual's personal dignity by causing embarrassment, discomfort, humiliation or offence; or
  2. Such conduct interferes with an individual's work performance or learning opportunities by creating an intimidating or hostile work or learning environment; or
  3. Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of employment or of educational services; or
  4. Submission to or rejection of such conduct affects decisions regarding that individual's employment or educational advancement including matters such as promotion, salary, benefits, job security, grades or employment references. 

Sexual harassment includes such things as unwanted touching (e.g., pinching, patting, rubbing), leering, sexist or dirty jokes, the display of sexually suggestive materials, derogatory or degrading comments, sexually suggestive gestures, and unwelcome propositions, innuendos, demands or inquiries of a sexual nature.

Personal Harassment/Bullying
 is the hurtful mistreatment of people by yelling or ridiculing, undermining an individual or groups with vindictive or humiliating words or acts, including malicious exclusion, and any acts of intimidation including stalking.

Complainant means the individual who makes a complaint.

Respondent means the individual who the complainant alleges has engaged in Prohibited Behaviour.

Prohibited Behaviour means discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment or personal harassment/bullying.

Regulation

  1. General
    This regulation applies to behaviour that constitutes discrimination, harassment or personal harassment/bullying, between or among staff members during work and school related-activities. For information regarding students, please refer to Board Policy HG.BP - Student Behaviour and Conduct, Administrative Regulation HG.AR - Student Behaviour and Conduct and Board Policy HF.BP - Safe, Caring and Respectful Learning Environments.

  2. Informed about Options
    1. All staff members shall be provided with information and access to district publications about harassment and discrimination. This information shall also be provided to new staff members at the time they are hired.

    2. Complainants, Respondents and Persons in authority who are involved in complaint resolution processes shall be provided with information regarding:
        1. Board Policy FBCA.BP - Respectful Working Environments and Administrative Regulation FBCA.AR - Respectful Working Environments
        2. counselling, support, sick leave benefits, and advisor services provided by and through Edmonton Public Schools
        3. the right of the Complainant and the Respondent to be accompanied by a union or association representative or another individual
        4. the right of the Complainant to withdraw the complaint at any stage in the process
        5. alternative routes for addressing the complaint.
    3. At any time in the informal or formal complaint process, mediation is an option for the Complainant and Respondent, if both parties agree.
    4. Both the Complainant and Respondent have the right to seek representation from a union or professional organization, or another individual at no cost to the District.
    5. The Complainant and the Respondent are encouraged to co-operate with the investigation and resolution of the complaint.
  3. Confidentiality and Privacy of Information
    1. All persons are urged to keep the matter confidential and Edmonton Public Schools will make reasonable efforts to respect the confidential nature of a complaint made under these regulations. However, anonymity and complete confidentiality cannot be guaranteed once a complaint is made. Information collected and retained as part of an investigation may be subject to release as part of a legal process or under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
    2. To respect the requirements of legislation, and the requirement that the process be fair to all parties, the following general principles will guide the release by Edmonton Public Schools of written information: 

    General principles of entitlement to information

    • A Complainant and a Respondent have a right to their own personal information.
    • A Complainant and a Respondent have a right to see written statements, information or reports related to the complaint process.
    • Individuals referred to in a written statement, information or report have the right to know what has been said about them, and by whom.

     Exceptions to the entitlement to information

    • A Complainant or a Respondent does not have the right to see personal information about each other or about a third party that is not directly related to the complaint.
    • Where the Superintendent of Schools or delegate (including the investigator)
      1. determines, in accordance with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, that disclosure of personal information will constitute an unreasonable invasion of a third party's personal privacy, or
      2. reasonably believes that disclosure of information will imperil the safety of an involved individual, such information shall not be disclosed. 
  4. Roles and Responsibilities
      1. All staff members share responsibility for creating and maintaining a learning and work environment that is free of harassment.
      2. All contractors with Edmonton Public Schools shall be made aware of this policy.
      3. Principals and supervisors are responsible for creating, supporting and maintaining a positive work and learning environment. This means, but is not limited to being informed themselves and informing the staff about the content of this policy and supporting an awareness of harassment in general.
      4. The Director Staff Relations or his/her designate is responsible for ensuring the implementation of and compliance with the policy and administrative regulation. The Director:
          • receives and responds to inquiries about discrimination and harassment
          • provides information about process, including, if appropriate, strategies to resolve complaints informally
          • advises complainant of their right to contact his/her union or professional association
          • receives formal complaints
          • reviews formal complaints to assess adequacy of information, and secures additional information if needed
          • determines if the matter has been previously investigated and dismissed, and if this is the case, advises the complainant that the matter is considered closed
          • channels complaints that do not fit the definition of harassment into other processes e.g. conflict resolution, employee assistance, informal mediation, legal action
          • advises the complainant of the next steps in the process
          • arranges for an external investigator when the complaint cannot be dealt with through informal processes.

            Should a complaint be dismissed by the Director Staff Relations, the complainant may appeal it to the Superintendent of Schools for review. The Superintendent of Schools' ruling on the matter shall be final.

  5. The Process - Staff Members

    Direct Action
      1. Individuals who experience perceived Prohibited Behaviour are strongly encouraged to take direct action by advising the Respondent at the earliest time possible that his/her actions are of concern or offensive.
      2. The potential Complainant may choose to communicate dissatisfaction or concern to the Respondent in writing, rather than communicating verbally.
      3. Persons using this process should keep a record of all the incidents and the way in which they were handled. This record will help the accurate reflection of events and how they were managed over time. 

Informal Complaint

    1. If an individual is not comfortable confronting the person whose actions they find offensive, or if the actions do not stop after they have confronted the individual, the next step is to proceed with an informal complaint. This means that the individual will approach a third party to help find a resolution to the problem. Teachers who have a complaint against another teacher should seek advice on how to address the situation from a staff officer in Member Services, Alberta Teachers' Association, to ensure they are in compliance with the Code of Professional Conduct. Similarly, CUPE members are advised to contact their unions to ensure compliance with the CUPE Equality Statement and Membership Oath of Obligation. The following individuals can also assist by providing information about the process for dealing with an informal complaint:
      1. supervisor
      2. respondent's supervisor
      3. trusted person in authority
      4. principal or an administrator
      5. Director Staff Relations
    2. Every attempt should be made to resolve the situation informally. For example, any of the parties listed above may intervene on the Complainant's behalf by arranging for the Complainant and Respondent to come together to resolve the matter, arranging for mediation or by advising the Complainant of other options.
    3. If this does not successfully resolve the issue, the Complainant may choose to initiate a Formal Complaint. It is not necessary to initiate an Informal Complaint before filing a Formal Complaint. If a Formal Complaint is initiated, it supersedes an Informal Complaint.
    4. At any time after the initiation of informal complaint, the Complainant may request that no further action be taken. The Complainant still has the option of filing a formal complaint at any time within one year of the incident.
    5. The Respondent has the right to request a timely investigation if an informal complaint is initiated, whether or not the complaint is pursued or dropped.

 Formal Complaint

    1. A Formal Complaint is made in writing and is filed with the Director Staff Relations within one year of the incident. Under exceptional circumstances, the Superintendent of Schools may accept a complaint filed more than one year after the incident.
    2. The Director Staff Relations shall review the complaint to ensure that it is complete, and that a formal complaint is the most appropriate process for achieving resolution. After determining that a complaint is complete and not vexatious, he/she shall promptly inform the Superintendent of Schools, the Respondent, and the supervisors of the Complainant and Respondent about the Formal Complaint. If the complainant is not satisfied with the decision made by the Director Staff Relations regarding whether the matter should go forward, he or she may appeal to the Superintendent of Schools whose decision will be final.
    3. An investigator shall be arranged by Human Resources. The District will make reasonable efforts to find a mutually acceptable investigator but if this is not possible, the Superintendent of Schools will appoint an investigator to ensure that the process is implemented.
    4. Attempts to resolve the complaint through conciliation or mediation may continue throughout the process provided that both the complainant and the respondent agree.

 Investigation

    1. The investigator shall request a detailed written statement from the Complainant. Should the Complainant prefer, the investigator shall interview the Complainant.
    2. If the Complainant provides a written statement, the investigator will follow up with an interview of the Complainant.
    3. The investigator shall provide the Respondent with the Complainant's written statement and/or written summary of the interview. The Respondent shall be invited to make a written response, or if the Respondent prefers, to respond orally to the investigator. Conversely, the Complainant shall be provided with the Respondent's written statement and/or written summary of the interview and have an opportunity to respond orally or in writing to the investigator.
    4. The investigator shall interview the Complainant and Respondent as necessary.
      1. The investigator shall interview any other persons and gather such other materials as may be necessary for the investigator to conclude the investigation.
      2. All parties are expected to co-operate with the investigation by being forthcoming, honest and respectful.
      3. The investigator shall produce a report of fact relating to the complaint made.
      4. If there is evidence that the complaint was vexatious, a deliberate attempt to avoid supervision or malicious (e.g., a deliberate attempt to avoid supervision, to damage a reputation, to hurt someone), this should be indicated in the report.
      5. The investigator's report shall be provided to the Superintendent of Schools, the Complainant, the Respondent, and the Director Staff Relations, within 60 days of the filing of the formal complaint. The Superintendent of Schools may extend the timeline for the submission of the report. The Complainant and Respondent may then submit a response in writing to the Superintendent of Schools within 10 working days of receiving the investigator's report. The report will indicate whether or not there is evidence to support the complainant.

 Outcome

    1. If the investigation reveals evidence to support the complaint of discrimination, harassment or personal harassment/bullying, the respondent will be disciplined appropriately. Discipline may include one or more of:
        1. direction to make a formal apology
        2. a written reprimand
        3. referral to counselling
        4. transfer
        5. withholding of a promotion
        6. demotion
        7. suspension or terminationany other measures as determined appropriate by the Superintendent of Schools.
    2. If the investigation does not find evidence to support the complaint of discrimination, harassment or personal harassment/bullying, there will be no documentation concerning the complaint placed on the respondent's file.
    3. Regardless of the outcome of the investigation, if the complaint was made in good faith, and is not found to be vexatious, the complainant will not be disciplined.
    4. The complainant and anyone who provides information will be protected from any form of retaliation from either co-workers or superiors under this policy.
    5. In the event that it is determined that the complaint was vexatious or malicious, the complainant may be subject to discipline.

The foregoing does not prohibit a person who is being harassed (employee, volunteer, person providing goods and services, or student) from making a complaint directly to the local police detachment if the matter is perceived to be of a criminal nature, or to the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission Phone: 780-427-7661 or toll-free within Alberta 780-310-0000 and then enter the area code and phone number.

References

FA.BP Human Resources Framework
HF.BP Safe, Caring and Respectful Learning Environments
HFA.BP Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
HG.BP Student Behaviour and Conduct
HG.AR Student Behaviour and Conduct
Alberta Human Rights Act
Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act
Occupational Health and Safety Act - October 1, 2013