Respectful Workplace Policy—Office of the Prime Minister and Ministers’ Offices

Table of Contents

This policy is effective September 29, 2020.

This policy will be reviewed to reflect the changes to the Canada Labour Code and the new Workplace Harassment and Violence Prevention Regulations once Bill C-65 (An Act to Amend the Canada Labour Code [Harassment and Violence], the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act and the Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1) comes into force.

Commitment

The Office of the Prime Minister and the ministers’ offices are committed to providing staff with a safe and healthy workplace. All employees deserve to feel valued and to be treated with dignity and respect. Harassment, violence and discrimination will not be tolerated, condoned or ignored.

We will take all reasonable steps to ensure that all employees are aware of their rights and responsibilities relating to maintaining a harassment, violence and discrimination-free workplace. All incidents and complaints under this policy will be promptly dealt with in a confidential, timely, fair, constructive and respectful manner. Corrective measures, which may include disciplinary measures up to and including dismissal, will be taken against any person breaching this policy.

Definitions

Please see Schedule 2.

Standard of conduct

Workplace harassment, violence and discrimination are strictly prohibited and will not be tolerated, ignored or condoned.

Care and support

All employees who are exposed to workplace harassment, violence or discrimination, or who are injured or negatively impacted as a result of workplace harassment, violence or discrimination are encouraged to consult a health care professional for treatment or referral. Employees have access to confidential resources through the Employee Assistance Program (EAP). The EAP is a 24-hour crisis and referral centre that can provide counselling and advisory services. It is completely confidential and free of charge. No one is obligated to seek help from the EAP. However, the support that the program offers can help employees improve their personal situation.

For more information, please visit the EAP website or contact the EAP at 1-800-268-7708, or 1-800-567-5803 (TTY - for people with hearing impairments).

What does “harassment and violence” mean?Footnote 1

Under this policy, harassment and violence include any action, conduct or comment, including of a sexual nature, that can reasonably be expected to cause offence, humiliation or other physical or psychological injury or illness to an employee.

For more clarity, please note that harassment is normally a series of incidents, but it can also be a single incident if that incident can reasonably be expected to cause offence, humiliation or other physical or psychological injury or illness to an employee.

What does “discrimination” mean?Footnote 2

Discrimination means any form of unfavourable treatment based on a protected ground under the Canadian Human Rights Act, including imposing extra burdens or denying benefits or advantages. It may be intentional or unintentional. Discrimination can be obvious, or it can occur in very subtle ways.

The protected grounds of discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act are race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital status, family status, genetic characteristics, disability and conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted or in respect of which a record suspension has been ordered.

Examples of harassment, violence and discrimination

For greater clarity, examples of the types of behaviours that may constitute harassment, violence or discrimination are listed below. These are only examples and do not in any way limit or narrow the definitions of harassment, violence and discrimination. Further inquiries about examples of behaviours should be directed to the Respectful Workplace Office.Footnote 3

  • Making sexual advances, advances or propositions when the person making the advance or proposition knew or ought reasonably to have known that they were unwelcome (for example, making repeated advances verbally or in writing to a passive recipient)
  • Making sexually suggestive gestures or comments
  • Making comments about a person’s body or appearance when the person making the comments knew or ought reasonably to have known that the comments were unwelcome
  • Engaging in sexual banter or creating or participating in a sexually-charged work environment
  • Making offensive comments about sexual orientation or gender identity
  • Making sexual jokes, engaging in sexually explicit conversation or asking intrusive sexual questions
  • Touching inappropriately
  • Leering or staring inappropriately
  • Creating or distributing emails, texts, online posts, direct messages or offensive pictures that can reasonably be expected to cause embarrassment or discomfort (for example, posting sexually explicit images in the workplace)
  • Abusing a superior position or real or perceived influence, including making a sexual solicitation or advance when the person making the solicitation or advance is in a position to confer, grant or deny a benefit or advancement and the person knew or ought reasonably to have known that the solicitation or advance was unwelcome; this includes any conduct, comment, gesture or contact of a sexual nature that may, on reasonable grounds, be perceived by the employee on the receiving end of the behaviour as placing a condition of a sexual nature on employment or on any opportunity for training or promotion
  • Refusing to refer to an employee using the gender pronoun they prefer to be referred to in accordance with their gender identity or expression
  • Mimicking or mocking a person who has a disability
  • Epithets, remarks, jokes or innuendos related to a person’s race, colour, national or ethnic origin or any other ground under the Canadian Human Rights Act
  • One of the ways in which people experience racism is through stereotyping. Stereotyping can be described as a process by which people use social categories such as race, colour, ethnic origin, etc. in acquiring, processing and recalling information about others. Stereotyping typically involves attributing the same characteristics to all members of a group, regardless of their individual differences. It is often based on misconceptions, incomplete information and/or false generalizations
  • While racism is sometimes displayed overtly, it is recognized that in many instances racial discrimination takes on more subtle and covert forms. The following types of treatment may be indicative of racial discrimination:
    • exclusion from formal or informal networks
    • denial of mentoring or developmental opportunities such as secondments and training which were made available to others
    • disproportionate blame for an incident
    • characterizing normal communication from racialized persons as rude or aggressive
    • penalizing a racialized person for failing to get along with someone else (e.g.: a colleague or manager), when one of the reasons for the tension is racially discriminatory attitudes or behaviour of the colleague or manager
      • E.g.: (this is just one example of the many ways a racialized person could be penalized). A manager frequently rolls his eyes or interrupts when an Indigenous woman employee speaks during staff meetings, even though nothing untoward is being said. The manager is not observed doing this with other employees. When the relationship between the employee and manager becomes excessively tense, the Indigenous woman’s employment is terminated. The explanation provided is her failure to get along with her manager
  • Disparaging or shunning an employee because they adhere to or are perceived to adhere to a particular faith
  • Passing over an employee with child-care responsibilities for a promotion or a specific project because of their family status
  • Making repeated remarks, jokes or innuendos that demean, ridicule, intimidate or offend
  • Isolating, shunning or excluding a person
  • Making repeated offensive or intimidating phone calls or sending comparable emails
  • Shaking a fist in an employee’s face
  • Making a statement or engaging in behaviour that is reasonable for an employee to interpret as a threat to exercise physical force against the employee
  • Throwing an object at an employee
  • Domestic or family violence situations where a person who has a personal relationship with an employee – such as a spouse or former spouse, family member, current or former intimate partners – physically harms, attempts or threatens to physically harm that employee at work.

What does not constitute harassment, violence or discrimination?

Not all negative behaviours will fall within the definitions in this policy. Some examples of behaviours that do not constitute harassment, violence or discrimination are listed below.

  • Carrying out managerial duties in a respectful and professional manner (for example, following up on work absences, taking corrective or disciplinary measures when justified or counselling an employee about their performance appraisal when done in a non-discriminatory and respectful manner)
  • Taking a single or isolated action that cannot reasonably be expected to cause offence, humiliation or other physical or psychological injury or illness to an employee
  • Excluding individuals from a particular job based on specific occupational requirements necessary to accomplish the safe and efficient performance of the jobFootnote 4
  • Offering constructive criticism about, for example, work mistakes or communication skills

Each case is unique and must be examined in its own context, taking into account the surrounding circumstances and specific relationships in order to determine whether a particular behaviour or pattern of behaviour constitutes a violation of this policy.

Who is protected under the policy?

EmployeesFootnote 5 are protected, as are any ex-employees who were on the receiving end of prohibited behaviour and were employees at the time the behaviour occurred. Please also see the section entitled “What about time limits?”

Who can submit a complaint?

An employee who believes that they have been the object of harassment, violence or discrimination can submit a complaint, as can any ex-employee who believes that they were the object of such behaviour while they were employed. Please also see the section entitled “What about time limits?”

Complaints can also be submitted anonymously through the ethics hotline (1-877-772-6745). The hotline is administered by a third party vendor, and is free of charge and available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Employees can make anonymous complaints so that even those who are worried about participating in this process are able to make their concerns known. Please note, however, that anonymous complaints can only be addressed or investigated if they are detailed enough to provide Complaint Resolution Officers and the Respectful Workplace Office with enough information to make an assessment of the complaint. As such, those making an anonymous complaint should ensure that they include the name of the person believed to have engaged in unwanted behaviour, the events surrounding the behaviour, when the behaviour took place and any witnesses that might be available. Anonymous complaints that lack sufficient detail to provide for meaningful review will not be addressed.

What if I am a bystander?

An employee may find themselves being a “bystander” to an incident of harassment, violence or discrimination. A bystander is an individual who directly observes harassment, violence or discrimination in the workplace or who is informed of the incident after the fact. Bystanders have an important role to play in reducing harmful behaviour in the workplace by taking steps to report behaviour that violates this policy.

A bystander may report an incident, but may not make a complaint in someone else’s name. All bystanders are strongly encouraged to notify a complaint resolution officer of an incident they become aware of. They are required to do so when a person’s security is at risk. The complaint resolution officer will take appropriate measures, including approaching the person who is allegedly on the receiving end of the behaviour to enquire whether they need support and provide information on the policy. Appropriate measures can, in rare cases (and most notably, depending on the seriousness of the allegations), include a formal investigation. The confidentiality and anti-reprisal provisions of this policy will apply to all persons involved, including bystanders.

Who are employees protected from?

Employees are protected from everyone with whom they interact in the context of their employment.

Employees are protected from harassment, violence or discrimination by colleagues, superiors (for example, ministers, chiefs of staff and directors) and by any other persons with whom they interact in the context of their employment (for example, members of Parliament, stakeholders, departmental staff, volunteers, guests, visitors and members of the public). Employees are also protected from harassment and violence by personal relations entering the workplace (for example, family members, partners, ex-partners).

What about time limits?

Complaints should be made as soon as possible.

Former employees can file a complaint under this policy if the occurrence of workplace harassment, violence or discrimination becomes known to the employer within three months after the day on which the former employee ceases to be employed. However, the employer retains the discretion to accept the complaint of a former employee, even when the complaint is made more than three months after the day on which the former employee ceases to be employed. In order to make that decision, the employer will take into consideration any appropriate factors, such as factors pertaining to the health and safety of current employees (for example, whether the alleged respondent is still an employee), as well as factors pertaining to procedural fairness (for example, whether the delay has made it impossible or difficult to retrieve evidence such that it would be difficult for the respondent to defend themselves).

Where does this policy apply?

In the workplace. Under this policy, the term “workplace” is defined broadly and includes:

  • Parliament Hill, if the affected individual is present for a work-related purpose
  • a minister’s office, including the Office of the Prime Minister
  • any location where the affected individual is present for a work-related purpose (for example, in a car while driving to a location for work-related purposes, at a training session, abroad during business travel or at a conference for work-related purposes)
  • any location where an activity is taking place for a work-related purpose, including work-related social gatherings (for example, an office holiday party)
  • unofficial gatherings that have a substantial connection to the workplace (for example, colleagues out for a beer after work)
  • cyberspace generally, including work-related social media posts

What are the steps for making a complaint?

Please see Schedule 1.

Who can receive a complaint or notification of an incident?

The following individuals can receive a complaint or notification of an incident:

What is a complaint resolution officer?

Complaint resolution officers receive and process complaints. They are responsible for the application of this policy, in consultation with the RWO. They possess knowledge and training in issues relating to harassment, violence and discrimination, as well as knowledge of the relevant legislation.

Complaint resolution officers include chiefs of staff, RWO officers and any other individual designated as a complaint resolution officer by the RWO. Employees can make a complaint to any complaint resolution officer, irrespective of the minister’s office the officer is associated with. If the complaint resolution officer who receives the complaint is associated with an office different from the employee’s, the complaint resolution officer notifies the RWO.

What is the Respectful Workplace Office?

The Respectful Workplace Office (RWO) oversees the application of the policy in order to ensure that it is applied diligently and appropriately, in good faith and in harmony with the applicable legislation. The RWO provides support and guidance to complaint resolution officers, as necessary. RWO officers are themselves complaint resolution officers and may receive and process complaints.

The RWO is composed of employees designated by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) as RWO officers to serve in that function for a duration specified by the PMO.

What is an alternate resolution officer?

No individual forming part of the RWO shall be involved in the decision-making process when a complaint or notification of an incident is made against an RWO officer. If a RWO officer is the subject of the complaint or notification of an incident, the complaint should be made or relayed to an alternate resolution officer. The alternate resolution officer will be responsible for processing the complaint and overseeing the application of the policy in those cases only.

The alternate resolution officer shall not communicate any information to an RWO officer against whom the allegation was made other than the information normally and usually communicated to a respondent.

The alternate resolution officer is designated by the PMO to serve in that function for a duration specified by the PMO.

The provisions of this policy applying to the complaint resolution officer apply to the alternate resolution officer with the necessary modifications.

What information should be disclosed in the complaint?

As a general rule, the complainant should be prepared to provide details, such as what happened; when, where and how often it happened; and who else was present (if applicable).

What if I do not wish to disclose information that is likely to reveal the identity of another person?

The more information a complainant is ready to disclose, the easier it is for the employer to identify and implement corrective and/or restorative measures. When the complainant is reluctant to disclose identifying information, the confidentiality and anti-reprisal provisions of this policy will be discussed with the complainant along with, if appropriate, various informal resolution possibilities.

Employers are obligated to take corrective measures against any person who harasses, is violent, bulliesFootnote 6 or discriminates against an employee. The preference is always for the complainant to maintain as much control as possible. Proceeding with an investigation despite the reluctance of the complainant is not ideal, but can be done in rare cases, for example, when the safety of others is at risk.. The confidentiality and anti-reprisal provisions of this policy will apply to all individuals involved.

What about confidentiality?

Information pertaining to an informal or formal complaint or notification of an incident, including identifying information about any of the individuals involved, is to be kept confidential except to the extent that it must be disclosed to investigate the allegations, to implement specific measures for creating and maintaining a respectful workplace free of harassment, violence or discrimination or as otherwise required by law.

All individuals who participate in an investigation, including, but not limited to: the complainant, witnesses, the respondent, complaint resolution officers, RWO officers and the investigator, shall maintain confidentiality throughout the process. Failure to maintain the confidentiality of the process is a breach of this Policy, and may result in disciplinary measures up to and including dismissal.

However, this paragraph does not preclude individuals from disclosing information to health professionals, other professionals and immediate family members for the purpose of obtaining help and support, including through the Employee Assistance Program.

This language is not intended to silence victims of violence, harassment or discrimination; rather, confidentiality is integral to conducting a proper investigation into this behaviour.

Note on the sharing of information with the respondent

In accordance with the principles of procedural fairness, no adverse consequence will flow from a complaint or notification of an incident without the respondent being afforded a chance to respond to the allegations made against them. This means that information about the complaint or incident will likely need to be shared with the respondent. This will be discussed with the complainant before any information is shared with the respondent.

Documenting the resolution process

The complaint resolution officer or alternate resolution officer will be responsible for thoroughly documenting the informal resolution process.

All complaint files will be kept securely in the complaint resolution officer’s office or in the office of the alternate resolution officer, as applicable, under lock and key and accessed only as appropriate.

No information pertaining to a complaint and resolution process will be kept in an employee file, except in the following circumstances:

  • If, at the conclusion of an investigation and after having observed all procedural fairness requirements, it is decided that the complaint was founded, this information may be kept in the respondent’s employee file; in no circumstances will this information be kept in the complainant’s employee file.
  • If, at the conclusion of an investigation and after having observed all procedural fairness requirements, it is decided that an employee breached the confidentiality or anti-reprisal provisions of this policy, this information may be kept in that person’s employee file; in no circumstances will this information be kept in the employee file of the person who complained that the confidentiality or anti-reprisal provisions were breached.
  • If, at the conclusion of an investigation and after having observed procedural fairness requirements, it is decided that an employee filed a complaint or reported an incident maliciously or in bad faith, this information may be kept in that person’s employee file.

Will I be subjected to adverse treatment for having exercised a right under this policy or for having participated in the process?

No. No employee will be penalized, punished or subjected to adverse treatment of any kind for exercising their rights under this policy or for participating in an investigation or resolution process. Reprisal shall itself be an incident of harassment and violence under this policy and will be investigated. Reprisal will not be tolerated and will result in disciplinary measures up to and including dismissal.

What if a complaint is made against me maliciously or in bad faith?

Complaints or notification of incidents made in bad faith shall themselves constitute incidents of harassment and violence under this policy and will be investigated. This investigation would seek to determine whether the complaint was made intentionally for the purpose of vexing and annoying or embarrassing a person, the complaint was calculated not to lead to any practical result and/or constitutes an abuse of process or there is evidence that the complainant intended to mislead or any other evidence that the complaint or notification was made in bad faith. If it is found that an employee made a complaint that was intentionally false or malicious, disciplinary action up to and including dismissal will result.

The standard for establishing bad faith is high and entails more than just poor judgment or negligence. A complaint can be unfounded but still be brought in good faith. No discipline will result from an unfounded complaint that is brought in good faith.

How will the employer ensure that all employees are aware of the policy and understand it?

Onboarding advisors are responsible for thoroughly reviewing this policy with every newly hired employee, including chiefs of staff and directors, and answering any questions employees may have in relation to the policy or referring them to the RWO for more information. The advisors will ensure that every newly hired employee or individual acting on behalf of a minister, including the chief of staff and directors, signs and dates this policy to acknowledge that it constitutes a condition of their employment and that a violation of this policy will lead to corrective measures, which may include disciplinary measures up to and including dismissal.

Onboarding advisors will also provide every newly hired employee with the following information:

  • An updated list and contact information of all complaint resolution officers, RWO officers and the alternate resolution officer
  • A hard copy of this policy or link to an electronic printable version
  • Information on support resources (for example, an Employee Assistance Program pamphlet)

Chiefs of staff are specifically responsible for designating an onboarding advisor among their senior staff and ensuring that they fulfill their role diligently. Chiefs of staff may choose to designate themselves as onboarding advisors.

Additionally, Respectful Workplace Policy training will provide staff with information intended to help foster a respectful workplace. The training will cover the definitions of harassment, violence and discrimination, and will help employees to recognize behaviours that can contribute to these situations. The training will help employees to understand the complaint resolution process, and will direct them to the support services available to them.

Emergency response: What do I do in case of imminent threat of physical harm?

Where an imminent threat of physical harm exists, employees should be mindful of their personal safety and should not interfere except to summon emergency assistance.

If an employee feels that an imminent threat of physical harm exists, they must contact emergency services (i.e. 911) to report the threat incident immediately, and take whatever steps are available to them to protect themselves against harm or injury, such as leaving the premises. Employees should also ensure that they seek medical attention for themselves or others, if necessary. Employees should refer to the security personnel of their offices for specific security protocols.

All employees are expected to act on any information that suggests there may be an imminent threat of physical harm.

Other recourses

Criminal offence

If the matter appears likely to constitute an offence under the Criminal Code, the RWO or alternate resolution officer will consider what action may be appropriate, including whether to refer the matter to the competent authority.

Other avenue pursued

If a complainant is pursuing more than one option to deal with the same complaint (for example, complaint to the police, proceeding before a tribunal), the RWO may suspend the formal process until the complainant has exhausted the other process(es). Any interim protective measure will stay in place.

Roles and responsibilities under this policy

Ministers

Ministers shall:

  • provide all employees with a harassment, violence and discrimination-free workplace
  • respect the confidentiality and anti-reprisal provisions of this policy at all times

Individuals having a supervisory role

All individuals having supervisory duties are responsible for managing the workplace in a manner that promotes a harassment, violence and discrimination-free environment. They are responsible for promptly putting an end to any conflict with a potential to escalate into harassment, violence or discrimination. All individuals having supervisory duties are expected to act on any information suggesting that harassment, violence or discrimination has occurred or may be occurring in the workplace. These responsibilities apply whether or not a complaint has been made. Individuals having a supervisory role shall:

  • foster a work environment free from harassment, violence and discrimination and set an example of appropriate workplace behaviour
  • remain attentive and recognize workplace incidents of harassment, violence or discrimination or situations with a potential to escalate into incidents, as well as take appropriate measures, including consulting with the RWO Office
  • relay any complaint made to them and any incident of harassment, violence or discrimination they suspect or have become aware of to a complaint resolution officer or alternate resolution officer
  • respect the confidentiality and anti-reprisal provisions of this policy at all times
  • monitor the situation until it is fully resolved
  • participate as fully as necessary in any investigation carried out under this policy
  • direct employees toward specialized support and resources, including the Employee Assistance Program, when appropriate
  • be familiar with this policy

Chiefs of staff are specifically responsible for designating an onboarding advisor and ensuring that they fulfill their role diligently. Chiefs of staff may choose to designate themselves as onboarding advisors.

Onboarding advisors

Onboarding advisors shall:

  • thoroughly review this policy with every newly hired employee and answer any questions these individuals may have in relation to the policy or refer them to the RWO for more information
  • ensure that every newly hired employee and individual acting on behalf of a minister, including chiefs of staff, directors, etc., signs and dates this policy to acknowledge that respecting this policy constitutes a condition of their employment and that a violation of this policy will lead to corrective measures, which may include disciplinary measures up to and including dismissal
  • ensure that every newly hired employee who has not yet received the Respectful Workplace Policy Training for all staff organized by the RWO completes the designated online training course within 14 days of their date of hire
  • provide every newly hired employee with:
  • an updated list and the contact information of the complaint resolution officers, RWO officers and alternate resolution officer
  • a hard copy of this policy or link to an electronic printable version
  • information on support resources (for example, an Employee Assistance Program pamphlet)

The Respectful Workplace Office

The RWO shall:

  • oversee the application of the policy in order to ensure that it is applied diligently and appropriately
  • ensure that all staff are aware of their rights and responsibilities around maintaining a workplace free of harassment, violence and discrimination
  • ensure that appropriate training is provided to exempt staff, including complaint resolution officers
  • communicate to employees the process for investigating and resolving complaints made under this policy
  • respond to harassment, violence and discrimination-related inquiries by employees, complaint resolution officers and ministers
  • ensure that this policy is reviewed at least every three years or as required by the circumstances
  • ensure that appropriate information is communicated to the employer

Complaint resolution officers

Complaint resolution officers shall:

  • take all complaints filed under this policy seriously and in good faith and carry out the informal or formal resolution process described in Schedule 1 in a timely and confidential manner, in consultation with the RWO
  • remain attentive and recognize workplace harassment, discrimination and violence, as well as situations with the potential to escalate into an incident, and take appropriate measures
  • ensure that all staff are aware that the Employee Assistance Program is available to them
  • ensure that any agreed-upon corrective and/or restorative measures are implemented and, when appropriate, regularly follow up with the complainant to ensure that the situation is resolved

Employees

Employees shall:

  • prevent conflict by contributing to an atmosphere of mutual trust, support and respect
  • read this policy (including updates to this policy) and familiarize themselves with its processes and concepts
  • complete the online training course designated by the onboarding advisor within 14 days of their date of hire (only if they did not previously complete the Respectful Workplace Policy Training for all staff organized by the RWO)
  • make themselves available to attend awareness and prevention training as required
  • participate fully in investigations conducted under this policy and maintain the confidentiality of the process

Schedule 1

Schedule 1A—I have a concern to bring forward. Now what?

Step 1: Talk or write to the person directly, but only if you are comfortable doing so

Employees may, whenever possible and appropriate, advise the person they believe has harassed, bullied or discriminated against them that the behaviour is unwelcome and ask them to stop. This can be done verbally or in writing. If the employee is not comfortable doing that, if this course of action is inappropriate given the circumstances or if the behaviour does not stop, employees are strongly encouraged to submit a complaint or report the incident(s).

Step 2: Make a complaint or notify someone of an incident

An employee should contact a complaint resolution officer (including any RWO officer) to submit their complaint or notification of an incident (a list of resolution officers, RWO officers and the alternate resolution officer will be provided to all employees and updated regularly). It does not matter if the officer is associated with a minister’s office different from the employee’s.

As explained in the section entitled “What is an alternate resolution officer?” an employee may contact the alternate resolution officer if an RWO officer is the respondent.

This may be done in person, by phone, in writing or by email.

An employee who has made a complaint can end the resolution process at any time by informing the Complaint Resolution Officer assigned to their complaint, or the Respectful Workplace Office, that they no longer wish to continue with the resolution process. This is intended to empower employees to have some control over how they engage with this process. For more clarity, complainants cannot be compelled to continue a process that they have initiated, but the employer retains the right to initiate a process where the safety at others is at risk.

Step 3: Initial meeting or conversation and determining whether any interim protective measures are required

The complaint resolution officer will promptly organize an initial meeting or conversation with the complainant. In the case of a bystander giving notification of an incident, the complaint resolution officer will contact the person who is allegedly the target of the behaviour.

During the initial meeting or conversation, the officer will outline the policy, including its confidentiality and anti-reprisal provisions, and will explain the various options available for resolving the complaint informally or formally, including seeking input from the complainant to identify relevant informal resolution options that would be acceptable to them, as appropriate. Support resources, such as the Employee Assistance Program, will also be discussed.

The complaint resolution officer will immediately determine whether any interim protective measures are reasonably required in order to ensure the protection of any employee(s). Interim protective measures may include, but are not limited to: relocating any of the relevant parties to a different worksite, placing one of the parties on paid or unpaid leave, implementing an alternative reporting relationship, etc.

Step 4: Deciding which process (formal or informal) is more appropriate

The next step is to determine which process (formal or informal) is appropriate.

What is the difference between an informal and a formal resolution process?

Informal process: In some cases, a formal investigation may not be necessary. For example, an informal process may be sufficient when simply having someone speak to the respondent on behalf of the complainant or holding a facilitation meeting prompts the respondent to realize that the behaviour in question is not welcome and to commit to not engage in similar behaviour in the future and/or to other corrective and/or restorative measures. When the respondent does not challenge the allegations made by the complainant, is willing to cease the behaviour, and a resolution acceptable to both parties is reached (an apology, training, etc.), it may not be necessary to conduct a formal investigation. Possible informal resolution outcomes include but are not limited to:

  • facilitation or mediation, if appropriate
  • training
  • a verbal or written apology
  • reorganization of the reporting structure or working relationship
  • regular follow-ups with the complainant in order to ensure that the behaviour has ceased
  • a combination of the above or any other resolution outcome agreeable to all
Formal process: An informal resolution process may not always be appropriate. For example, this may happen when the respondent does not agree with the factual allegations made against them or disputes that the behaviour was inappropriate under the circumstances, or the principles of procedural fairnessFootnote 7 otherwise require a formal investigation. A formal investigation may also be required in light of the seriousness of the allegations.

After the investigation is completed, the complainant and the respondent will be advised of the results and of any corrective action that has been taken or will be taken as a result of the investigation.

If, after an investigation, a complaint is found to be substantiated, the employer will implement corrective and/or restorative measures in order to ensure a workplace free from harassment, violence and discrimination and prevent a reoccurrence of the incident(s). These measures may be disciplinary, non-disciplinary or both, depending on the circumstances. They include, but are not limited to:

  • an oral or written apology
  • coaching or training
  • restructuring of reporting relationships or duties
  • a verbal reprimand
  • a written reprimand
  • suspension without pay
  • dismissal
  • any other appropriate measures or a combination of the above
Who decides which process is more appropriate?

The complainant will be asked to consider whether they wish to pursue an informal or formal resolution process, and this choice will be respected on a best-effort basis (please refer to the section entitled “What is the difference between an informal or formal resolution process?” for more details).

In cases where alternate dispute resolution methods, such as facilitation or mediation, are appropriate, all parties will be expected to consider using such methods and making reasonable efforts to resolve the situation through these means.

An informal resolution process may not always be appropriate. Depending on the circumstances, there may be cases where there will be no other choice but to proceed with a formal investigation.

A complaint resolution officer may, in consultation with the RWO, determine that an informal resolution process would not be appropriate or is no longer appropriate given the circumstances. The determination will be based on the specific circumstances of each case, taking into account the gravity of the allegations, any power imbalance between the parties, the requirements of procedural fairness, the requirements under the applicable legislation and any other relevant circumstances. The complaint resolution officer will discuss this with the complainant, as appropriate, and may inform the complainant that a formal investigation will take place.

Step 5: Implementing the informal resolution process, if applicable

When appropriate, parties are offered mediation/facilitation services. These services will only be pursued with the consent of both parties. The complaint resolution officer will explore the various possible resolution outcomes with the parties (together or separately, as appropriate), including input from the parties identifying any other relevant resolution options that would be acceptable to both parties.

Mediation/facilitation is voluntary and confidential. It is intended to assist the parties to arrive at a mutually acceptable resolution to the complaint. The mediator/facilitator will be a neutral person, agreed upon by both parties. If both parties so choose, the complaint resolution officer can act as mediator/facilitator. Each party to a complaint may be accompanied by a support person of their choice during the informal resolution process meetings. The support person is there to provide moral support—not to speak on behalf of the complainant or respondent. The support person cannot be another complainant or respondent, or someone who is or may be a witness during the investigation.

If the process is successful in resolving the complaint, the complaint resolution officer ensures that any agreed upon corrective and/or restorative measures are implemented.

Schedule 1B—I have decided that I want to pursue a formal resolution process (or an informal resolution process is not appropriate or no longer appropriate given the circumstances). Now what?

Step 6: Putting the complaint in writing

If the formal process is chosen, the complainant will inform the complaint resolution officer of their choice, in writing, and will provide the complaint resolution officer with a written description of the details of the complaint (please refer to the section entitled “What information should be disclosed in the complaint?” for more details). The complaint resolution officer will promptly notify the RWO of the complainant’s choice.

Step 7: Assigning a complaint resolution officer to the case

The RWO will assign a complaint resolution officer to the case. The complaint resolution officer may be the one who originally received the complaint or a different one, giving due consideration to all relevant factors, such as impartiality about or proximity to either of the parties, training and experience of the complaint resolution officer, etc.

As explained in the section entitled “What is an alternate resolution officer?” if an RWO officer is the respondent, the alternate resolution officer is deemed to be the complaint resolution officer and will act accordingly.

Step 8: Written acknowledgment of receipt

Within five business days of the complainant requesting that the formal resolution process be initiated or of a decision being made to initiate the formal process as described in the section entitled “Deciding which process (formal or informal) is more appropriate”, the complaint resolution officer will acknowledge receipt of the complaint in writing.

Step 9: Assessment

The complaint resolution officer will then review the written submissions in order to determine whether they fall within the definitions contained in this policy. For this purpose, the complaint resolution officer will assume that the factual allegations underpinning the complaint are true.

The complaint resolution officer will promptly inform the complainant of the decision regarding whether the allegations fall within the definition of harassment, violence or discrimination under this policy.

If the complaint does not fall under the purview of this policy, the complaint resolution officer, in consultation with the RWO and after having notified the complainant, may decide that it is appropriate to notify the respondent that the complaint was received and provide the respondent with the allegations and the reasons why the complaint was not accepted. The decision to notify the respondent will take into account relevant factors, such as the requirements of procedural fairness, ensuring that a conflictual or otherwise problematic situation in the workplace is promptly dealt with, etc. The complaint resolution officer will act as a facilitator or mediator and will help restore and mend the workplace relationships despite the fact that the allegations did not fall within the purview of this policy.

Review of the complaint resolution officer’s decision

If the complainant is not satisfied with the decision of the complaint resolution officer at Step 9, the complainant may ask for a review of the decision by the RWO by sending an email to an RWO officer along with the written description of the allegations. If the contested decision was made by an RWO officer, the alternate resolution officer will review the contested decision independently.

The reviewing officer will make a final decision on whether the allegations fall under this policy.

If the decision made at Step 9 is reversed, a new complaint resolution officer will be appointed to continue the process.

Step 10: Informing the respondent that a complaint has been made

Following the decision that the complaint can be processed under this policy, the respondent will be promptly informed in person and in writing:

  • that a complaint was made against them
  • of the general nature of the complaint
  • that an investigator will be appointed promptly and that disclosure of the allegations will be forthcoming
  • of the interim protective measures that must be put in place (if any)

It will be part of the investigator’s role to inform the respondent of the specific nature of the allegations before interviewing them, as further described below in the section “What will the investigator do?” The investigator will provide the respondent with an opportunity to respond fully to the allegations during the interview(s). No decision will be made before the parties have been provided with an opportunity to be heard and the necessary relevant evidence has been gathered and considered.

Step 11: Formal investigation

The complaint resolution officer will designate an investigator. This person may be an external or internal investigator, but in all cases this person will:

  • be trained in investigative techniques for workplace investigations
  • have knowledge, training and experience that is relevant to harassment, violence or discrimination in the workplace
  • have knowledge of the relevant legislation

Among the factors to consider when deciding whether to use an internal or an external investigator are the following:

  • the seriousness of the allegations
  • the anticipated complexity of the investigation process, such as the presence of a counter-complaint or multiple complainants or respondents
  • bias or the perception of bias—for example, when the internal investigator is a friend or colleague of one of the parties or witnesses
  • any other relevant factor

The investigator will advise the complaint resolution officer as to the expected timeframes for completion of the investigation and finalization of the report. The report will be finalized as promptly as possible without compromising due process.

The complaint resolution officer will provide access to facilities and witnesses to assist the investigator in the investigation process.

What will the investigator do?

The investigation procedure will be based on the individual circumstances of each case. The investigator is responsible for conducting an investigation that is fair, impartial and appropriate given the seriousness and complexity of the allegations raised.
A decision will be made only after the investigator has gathered all the necessary facts and both parties have had an opportunity to be heard.
The fact-gathering process will usually include:

  • separate interview(s) of the complainant, the respondent and the relevant witnesses (if any) in order to obtain their version of the events
  • follow-up interviews, when appropriate
  • collection and review of any physical evidence (emails, pictures, text messages, etc.)
  • a visit to the scene of the incident, where appropriate

Following the conclusion of the investigation, the investigator will provide the employer with a report.

What can I expect during an interview?

The interview provides an opportunity for a person to tell their version of events.

In addition to accessing support through the Employee Assistance Program, parties can designate someone to provide moral support during the interview process by accompanying them to interviews. A support person does not speak on behalf the complainant or respondent. The support person cannot be another complainant, respondent, , or someone who is or may be a witness during the investigation.

What if I am the respondent and I also have allegations to bring forward?

If the respondent feels they have allegations to raise against the complainant and want to make their own complaint, they should raise the matter with the investigator immediately. To the extent possible, all allegations pertaining to substantially the same fact pattern or issues should be investigated together. It is improper for a respondent to wait for an investigation to be finalized before raising their own concerns or making a complaint pertaining to substantially the same fact pattern or issues. In such a case, the employer may determine that the allegations should have been raised sooner and decline to commence a new investigation into the events.

Can I retain legal counsel?

There is certainly no obligation to retain counsel for the purposes of the investigation process, but parties are free to do so at their own cost.

What will happen if the complaint is found to be substantiated?

The employer will implement corrective and/or restorative measures in order to ensure a workplace free from harassment, violence and discrimination and prevent a reoccurrence of the incident(s) or of similar incidents. These measures may be disciplinary, non-disciplinary or both, depending on the circumstances. They include, but are not limited to:

  • an oral or written apology
  • coaching or training
  • restructuring of reporting relationships or duties
  • a verbal reprimand
  • a written reprimand
  • suspension without pay
  • dismissal
  • any other appropriate measures or a combination of the above

Step 12: Communicating the results of the investigation to the parties

The complainant and respondent will be informed of the results of the investigation; they will be provided with a summary report and advised of any corrective and/or restorative measures that have been taken or that will be taken as a result of the investigation by the complaint resolution officer.

Step 13: Implementing the corrective and/or restorative measures

The complaint resolution officer ensures that any corrective and/or restorative measures are implemented and, when appropriate, follows up regularly with the complainant to ensure that the situation is resolved.

Schedule 2—Definitions

abuse of authority
A form of harassment that occurs when an individual misuses the power and authority inherent in their position to endanger an employee’s job, undermine the performance of that job, threaten the economic livelihood of the employee or in any way improperly interfere with or inappropriately influence the employee’s career.
alternate resolution officer

The person responsible for receiving a complaint or notification of an incident, processing the complaint and/or overseeing the application of the policy in a case where an allegation is made against an RWO officer.

The alternate resolution officer shall not communicate any information to the RWO officer against whom the allegation was made other than the information normally and usually communicated to a respondent.

The RWO officer is designated by the Prime Minister’s Office to serve in that function for a duration specified by the PMO.

bullying
Bullying is included under the definition of harassment and violence in this policy.
complainant
The employee or former employee on the receiving end of the behaviour complained about.
complaint resolution officer

Complaint resolution officers can receive and process complaints. They are responsible for the application of the policy in consultation with the RWO. They possess knowledge and training in issues relating to harassment, violence and discrimination, as well as knowledge of the relevant legislation.

Complaint resolution officers include chiefs of staff, RWO officers and any other staff from a minister’s office or the Prime Minister’s Office designated as a complaint resolution officer by the RWO. A list of resolution officers will be provided to all employees and updated regularly.

A complaint resolution officer likely to be involved in the complaint (for example, as a witness) cannot be involved in any part of the decision-making process in relation to a complaint or notification of an incident.

employee

Under this policy, “employee” means a person employed by a minister, including the prime minister, as exempt staff or as a student intern. An exempt staff member is a person who is employed in a minister’s office, including the Office of the Prime Minister, pursuant to section 128 (1) of the Public Service Employment Act.

Note regarding departmental staff: Departmental staff are public service employees who are assigned to a minister’s office, including the Office of the Prime Minister, pursuant to a Treasury Board authorization. Departmental staff are not employees for the purpose of the application of this policy and are subject to the policies of their respective organizations.

employer
Under this policy, “employer” means a minister, including the prime minister, who in that capacity employs or has the direction or control of exempt staff required in his or her office. It also means any person who acts on behalf of a minister.
incident
An interaction, gesture, comment or decision believed by a person subjected to it, who has witnessed it or has heard of it to constitute a breach of this policy.
procedural fairness
Procedural fairness (the right to a fair process) includes the right of the respondent to know the case against them and to be provided with an opportunity to respond fully to all allegations.
Respectful Workplace Office

The Respectful Workplace Office (RWO) oversees the application of the policy in order to ensure that it is applied diligently and appropriately, in good faith and in harmony with the applicable legislation. The RWO also provides support and guidance to complaint resolution officers, as necessary. RWO officers are themselves complaint resolution officers and may receive and process complaints.

The RWO is composed of employees (RWO officers) designated by the PMO to serve in that function for a duration specified by the PMO.

respondent
A person against whom an allegation or allegations have been made that they breached this policy.
parties
The complainant and the respondent.
witness
A person who has relevant information about a complaint made under this policy.

Acknowledgment and understanding

I, ____________________________ (print name) have carefully read this policy. I understand it and I understand that I may contact any complaint resolution officer (including members of the Respectful Workplace Office) if I have questions about this policy. I understand that compliance with this policy constitutes a condition of my employment and that any violation of this policy will lead to corrective measures, which may include disciplinary measures up to and including dismissal.
_______________________________
Signature

_______________________________
Date

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