EPSB.ca » Our Division » Board Policies & Administrative Regulations » F - Human Resources and Employee Relations » FBCA.AR Respectful Working Environments

Respectful Working Environments

  • Code: FBCA.AR
    Topic: Respectful Working Environments
    Issue Date: 05/11/2020
    Effective Date: 25/06/2018
    Review Year: 2027

Objective

To provide clarity and expectations around Edmonton Public Schools’ commitment to providing students and  staff with welcoming, safe, caring, inclusive and respectful working and learning environments. Through  awareness, education, complaint resolution and investigation processes, Edmonton Public Schools strives, to the  extent that is reasonably practicable, to manage workplace hazards of harassment (including sexual  harassment), discrimination, racism and/or workplace bullying.

Definitions

Complainant means the individual who makes a complaint.

Discrimination means limiting opportunities, benefits or advantages with respect to access to any term or condition of employment that is available to others under any protected ground identified by the Alberta Human Rights Act. The behaviour giving rise to a complaint of discrimination may be direct or indirect and 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 occupational requirement.

Dispute/Conflict resolution processes are confidential, voluntary, collaborative problem-solving alternatives to the complaint process set out in section C.3 in this regulation whereby individuals can communicate with the  assistance of a neutral third party with the aim of identifying mutual interests and resolving a dispute. Examples of alternative approaches may include such strategies as face-to-face conversation, conflict management coaching, facilitated discussion or mediation.

Harassment is objectionable or unwelcome conduct, comments, bullying, gestures, contact or actions based on race, religious beliefs, colour, physical disability, mental disability, age, ancestry, place of origin, marital status, source of income, family status, gender, gender identity, gender expression or sexual orientation. The conduct is directed to an employee or group in the workplace within or outside regular work hours, by a person that knows or ought reasonably to know their actions would cause offence, humiliation or adversely affect the health and safety of another person. Harassing behaviour includes actions that occur at work, at any event or location related to work or resulting from work or that may negatively impact working relationships. Harassment normally refers to a series of incidents or repeated behaviour, but can be one incident. 

Harassment includes, but is not limited to, actions intended to intimidate, threaten, demean/degrade/devalue,  ridicule, belittle, embarrass, taunt, coerce or bully another person or group. The actions create fear or mistrust  and may be explicit or indirect, or physical, psychological, psychosocial or electronic in nature. Harassment  includes a pattern of microaggression, which is a comment or action, often subtle, whether conscious, unconscious or unintended, that demonstrates a prejudiced attitude or bias towards a member of a marginalized group (e.g., expressions of racism, sexism, ageism or ableism; or based on gender, ethnic, cultural or economic assumptions). 

Harassment excludes differences of opinion or minor disagreements between co-workers, and any reasonable  conduct of Edmonton Public Schools or a supervisor related to the supervision and management of an employee or a work site.

Prohibited behaviour means discrimination, racism, harassment (including sexual harassment) and/or  workplace bullying. 

Protected grounds are grounds protected from discrimination under the Alberta Human Rights Act. Grounds  include race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, religious beliefs, gender, gender identity, gender expression, age,  physical disability, mental disability, marital status, family status, source of income and sexual orientation.

Racism occurs in the context of a power imbalance and is prejudice based on beliefs of superiority resulting in  advantage of one race over another. It includes conscious and unconscious discriminatory or derogatory  attitudes, comments or actions derived from assumptions and perceptions relative to race, colour, ancestry or  place of origin. 

Respect means to honour and demonstrate consideration for the dignity, rights, feelings, opinions and property of others. Respect means treating others in a way that recognizes their worth and builds trust, relationships, well-being and a sense of safety as the foundation for a healthy work environment. 

Respondent means the individual who is alleged to have engaged in Prohibited Behaviour(s).

Sexual harassment is any unwelcome behaviour that is sexual in nature in the workplace or other related  professional or social situation. Unwanted sexual advances or requests for sexual acts, and other verbal, physical or electronic/virtual conduct of a sexual nature constitutes sexual harassment when:

  1. Such conduct undermines another individual's personal dignity by causing embarrassment, discomfort, humiliation or offence.
  2. Such conduct interferes with an individual's work performance or learning opportunities by creating an intimidating or hostile work or learning environment.
  3. Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of employment or of educational services.
  4. Submission to or rejection of such conduct affects decisions regarding that individual's employment or educational advancement, including but not limited to, matters such as promotion, salary, benefits, job security, employment references, ability to transfer within the Division or performance rating.

Sexual harassment includes, but is not limited to, such actions as unwanted touching (e.g., pinching, patting,  rubbing), leering, sexist or ‘dirty’ jokes, physical advances, display of sexually suggestive images/materials,  derogatory or degrading comments, sexually suggestive gestures and unwelcome propositions, innuendos,  demands, advances, comments or inquiries of a sexual nature.

Vexatious (includes Malicious)
describes a complaint that is submitted without reasonable or probable cause, is not submitted in good faith (i.e., with honesty and positive intention) and has the intention to cause harm.

Workplace Bullying is the persistent negative, aggressive or hostile action by an employee or group of  employees directed toward another employee or group of employees in or related to the workplace, whether or  not it occurs in a Division building or during the regular work day, that causes the targeted individual(s) to feel  uncomfortable, intimidated, fearful or unsafe. Workplace bullying may be subtle or overt, threatened or actual,  and verbal, physical or electronic in nature; and may or may not be in the context of an unequal power  relationship between the parties.

Responsibility

  1. Chief Human Resources Officer
    1. Ensure that real and potential hazards of discrimination, racism and harassment, including workplace  bullying, are recognized and that steps are taken to eliminate or control them to prevent harm to employees.
    2. Ensure that this regulation and the supporting processes and resources are implemented and  maintained.
  2. Director, Human Resources, Staff Relations
    1. Ensure the complaint and investigation processes are conducted according to the processes outlined in this regulation.
    2. Facilitate communication of information and education to all employees relative to this regulation, and related processes and resources.
  3. Decision Unit [D. U.] Administrators / Supervisors / Managers
    1. Adhere to, and ensure that all staff are aware of and adhere to, expectations outlined in this regulation and its related processes in order that all staff have the information they need to meet their obligations and support their safety and well-being of themselves and others in their workplace.
    2. Address minor interpersonal issues in the workplace in a timely and fair manner.
    3. Inform external partners and contractors of this regulation prior to work beginning at their work site and retain records of this communication.
  4. Employees
    1. Review this regulation annually to ensure awareness of expectations, obligations and support resources relative to this regulation.
    2. Uphold this regulation by contributing to safe, healthy and respectful working environments free from discrimination, racism or harassment, including workplace bullying, and refraining from participating in Prohibited Behaviour(s).
    3. Employees have the obligation to cooperate with investigation processes, as required, and to be  forthcoming and truthful in sharing information within the complaint and investigation processes.

Regulation

  1. DIVISION PRINCIPLES
    1. Edmonton Public Schools is committed to providing working environments in which all employees are treated with respect and dignity.
    2. A safe, respectful and inclusive working environment is a shared responsibility among all members of the Division.
    3. As part of Division culture, we begin from a belief of best intentions and as an educational organization, we offer support for individuals to continually learn and grow.
    4. Interpersonal conflict in the workplace and concerns regarding the actions of another Division employee should be addressed in the most informal and least disruptive manner possible.
    5. All incidents of harassment, workplace bullying, discrimination and/or racism that are experienced or observed should be reported and addressed, and appropriate action will be taken in accordance with this Regulation.
    6. Investigations will be completed in as timely a manner as possible, taking into consideration the  circumstances and complexity of the complaint, external factors (e.g., natural breaks; leaves of absence of either party) and the need to balance thoroughness and fairness in the process.
    7. Investigators, whether internal or external to the Division, will have expertise and experience  appropriate to the nature of the investigation in an educational context
    8. The scope of the investigation and the investigation process will correspond to the severity and  complexity of a complaint.
    9. Confidentiality will be maintained, except where required by law or when necessary, to communicate findings to the parties or to take appropriate action. All parties, including supervisors and witnesses, are expected to maintain confidentiality regarding all aspects of the complaint and investigation processes
  2. GENERAL
    1. This Regulation applies to behaviours that may constitute discrimination, racism, harassment, including workplace bullying, against staff members, whether or not the behaviour occurs at the work site or during regular working hours.
    2. Retaliation against any individual involved in an investigation process is prohibited and may result in disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment with Edmonton Public Schools.
    3. This Regulation does not prohibit an employee who is subjected to Prohibited Behaviour from exercising their rights pursuant to any other law, including the Alberta Human Rights Act, or professional obligation, in addition to any action under this regulation.
    4. Dispute resolution processes are available throughout the complaint and investigation process at the request of either party and if both parties agree. An investigation process is suspended during a dispute resolution process.
  3. COMPLAINT RESOLUTION PROCESS
    1. Direct Action
      1. Individuals experiencing perceived Prohibited Behaviour are encouraged to take direct action by advising the Respondent, in person or in writing and as soon as possible, that their actions are unwelcome or offensive. A Complainant may request assistance from their supervisor or from the Director, Human Resources, Staff Relations, where the Respondent is the supervisor, in communicating their concern to the Respondent.
      2. Individuals experiencing perceived Prohibited Behaviour should keep a record of incident and the way in which they were managed.
    2.  Informal Resolution
      1. If a Complainant is not comfortable confronting the Respondent or if the offensive actions do not stop after they have confronted the individual, the Complainant may choose to proceed with informal resolution, whereby the supervisor, Decision Unit administrator or the Director, Human Resources, Staff Relations, is approached to help find a resolution to the concern.
      2. If informal processes, where appropriate, do not successfully resolve the issue, the Complainant may choose to initiate a complaint.
    3. Complaint
      1. A complaint is made in writing to the Director, Human Resources, Staff Relations, using the Division’s Complaint Reporting Form.
      2. The Director, Human Resources, Staff Relations, will make a threshold determination as to whether an investigation is the appropriate process to resolve a complaint, and may direct the complaint to an appropriate process (e.g., alternative dispute resolution strategy; referral to the Employee and Family Assistance Program; or process specific to another Division regulation), depending on the circumstances.
      3. The Director, Human Resources, Staff Relations, may dismiss the complaint if the Complainant does not provide adequate information within a reasonable time, lacks legitimate grounds, and/or the complaint does not meet the definition of discrimination, racism, harassment (including sexual  harassment) and/or workplace bullying as described in this Regulation.
      4. The decision by the Director, Human Resources, Staff Relations to dismiss a complaint or direct the complaint to an appropriate process can be appealed by the Complainant in writing to the Chief Human Resources Officer within one week of being notified of the decision.
  4. INVESTIGATIONS
    1. Initiating An Investigation - Reporting
      1. Workplace investigations are conducted to gather relevant facts and information in order to review allegations of misconduct of an employee; to ensure that actions of employees support Division regulations and policies; and to support accountability and identify opportunities for individual and systemic improvement.
      2. An investigation may be initiated by the Director, Human Resources, Staff Relations, where:
        1. The Director, Human Resources, Staff Relations, determines that an investigation is the  appropriate process to resolve a complaint pursuant to Section C.3.b.
        2. A pattern of inquiries or complaints over a period of time suggests that a specific problem has been identified but not corrected.
        3. There is reason to believe that a broader, systemic issue exists that causes or contributes to discrimination, racism or harassment (including sexual harassment) and/or workplace bullying.
        4. There is a complaint by an external party against a Division employee if sufficient information is provided and the external parties are willing participants in an investigation process.
      3. Complaints will not generally be accepted for investigation if:
        1. The Complainant is anonymous or third-party, though follow-up may occur and investigated where warranted and when sufficient information is provided; or
        2. The issue has been previously investigated, except in circumstances where previously unknown information emerges.
      4. Complainants and Respondents will be provided with information regarding:
        1. Administrative Regulation FBCA.AR Respectful Working Environments.
        2. Alternative approaches for addressing the complaint (e.g., conflict resolution processes).
        3. Benefits and services available through the Division, or external supports relevant to the circumstances (e.g., Employee and Family Assistance Program; Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton).
      5. The Complainant may withdraw their complaint at any stage in the complaint or investigation process. The Division, however, may initiate and proceed with an investigation process at the discretion of the Director, Human Resources, Staff Relations.
      6. Information collected and retained as part of an investigation may be subject to release as part of a legal process or under Alberta’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act [FOIP]. Anonymity and complete confidentiality cannot be guaranteed once a complaint is made. A Complainant and a Respondent have a right to know what has been said about them and by whom, except where information about each other or a third party is not directly related to the complaint, or the Director, Human Resources, Staff Relations:
        1. Determines, in accordance with FOIP, 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 jeopardize the safety of an individual.
    2. Investigation Process
      1. The Director, Human Resources, Staff Relations, will inform the Chief Human Resources Officer, the Complainant, the Respondent and the administrative supervisor(s) of the parties involved of the  general nature of the complaint and that an investigation has been initiated.
      2. The parties have the right to be accompanied during an investigation process by a union or professional association representative or other professional representative at no additional cost to the Division.
      3. Parties are not permitted to audio or video record the investigation interview; however, written notes may be taken. The parties will be provided the opportunity to confirm their statements and/or responses to the Investigator.
      4. The Investigator will provide a confidential investigation report to the Director, Human Resources, Staff Relations, that includes the Investigator’s opinion, based on gathered information, on findings specific to each allegation. The standard of proof used by the Investigator will be the balance of  probabilities (i.e., whether it is more likely than not the alleged event has occurred), which is the  standard used in human rights and civil matters. Findings of the Investigator are not subject to appeal.
      5. Investigation findings will be prepared in accordance with FOIP and will be provided to the parties by the Director, Human Resources, Staff Relations, with the opportunity to respond in writing within ten (10) working days.
      6. The Director, Human Resources, Staff Relations, will communicate findings, and responses to the findings (where responses are provided within the timeframe) to the administrative supervisor of the Respondent (or the next level administrative supervisor in the line of authority where the administrative supervisor of the Respondent is a witness or is the Respondent) and will support the respective administrative supervisor(s) in taking appropriate action through Division processes if an allegation is substantiated. Subject to any legislative requirements, Division processes may include a recommendation by the administrative supervisor to their respective supervisor.
      7. Appropriate action will consider the impact of the Prohibited Behaviour on the Complainant and the work environment and may include, but is not limited to, one or more of:
        1. Direction to make a formal, written apology.
        2. Non-disciplinary letter.
        3. Written reprimand.
        4. Direction to participate in a relevant educational opportunity.
        5. Recommendation to the appropriate authority for:
          1. Transfer to another Division location.
          2. Demotion or withholding of a promotion.
          3. Suspension (with or without pay).
          4. Termination.
        6. Any other measures deemed appropriate by the administrative supervisor.
      8. Regardless of the outcome of the investigation, the Complainant will not be disciplined if the complaint was made in good faith.
        1. If evidence indicates that the complaint was vexatious or malicious or a deliberate attempt to avoid supervision and performance management, the Complainant may be subject to discipline, up to and including a recommendation for termination of employment with Edmonton Public  Schools.
      9. If the investigation does not find evidence to support the allegation(s), no documentation  concerning the complaint is retained on the Respondent's Employee File or Working File.

References

FA.BP Human Resources Framework
FBCB.AR Division Staff Code of Conduct
FBEB.AR Workplace Violence
Alberta Human Rights Act
Education Act Section 33(1)(d)
Alberta Occupational Health and Safety Act, section 1(q)
Alberta Occupational Health and Safety Code, part 27, sections 390, 391