The word no one wants to hear
If you are like most people, the word harassment is not one you want to hear. In our opinion, it should really be on a list of words that should not be part of our vocabulary. Unfortunately, it is part of our vocabulary . . . because it exists.
The USJE and the PSAC firmly believe that every individual has the right to live and work without having to experience harassment in any way, shape or form.
The definition of harassment includes any improper behaviour by a person that is directed towards another individual who finds the behaviour offensive and which the person knew, or ought reasonably to have known, was inappropriate and unwelcome.
The definition of harassment also includes behaviour that contravenes the protections of the Canadian Human Rights Act. This legislation protects individuals against harassment based on the prohibited grounds of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, disability or conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted.
At the work site, your employer is responsible for ensuring that employees can carry out their tasks in a workplace free from harassment. On October 1, 2012, Treasury Board issued the new Policy on the Prevention and Resolution of Harassment in the Workplace. This was a long awaited update to the original policy issued in 2001. Designed to foster a respectful workplace through the prevention and prompt resolution of harassment.
USJE’s approach to harassment is two-fold. In the workplace, the union firmly believes that it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that its employees - USJE members - are provided with a work environment that is free from harassment.
Our role as union officers is to police this employer responsibility through pressure to provide proactive, preventative training and to offer early mediation to the individual parties. The union must also ensure that our members are provided with due process and fairness, and that proceedings are conducted in a timely manner.
The union does, nevertheless, have a role to play to ensure that our goal of a harassment-free workplace is met. Our responsibility is emphatically clear in cases of harassment of one USJE member by another. Where there are allegations of harassment involving two union members, the USJE is committed to ensuring that all of our members have:
- the right to fair and due process and confidentiality, subject to appropriate disclosure to those involved; and
- assistance in settling the matter at the earliest stage possible.
The PSAC has developed guidelines and typical questions and answers to assist union representatives in implementing its policies on harassment. These guidelines outline:
- the roles and responsibilities of the individuals and bodies involved; and
- the process, which should be followed where harassment situations arise.
Local union officers should also be aware of Regulation 19 of the PSAC Constitution, which governs membership discipline. It should be noted that Regulation 19 sets out the procedures to be followed in handling disciplinary charges at the Local level in cases where one member has laid a complaint against another. It is important that these procedures be followed in a correct and timely manner.
As union representatives in Local leadership positions, you should familiarize yourselves with the materials in this section. They will serve as useful tools when you are called upon to assist your members in dealing with harassment situations, whether with the employer or within the union. We would also encourage you to attend training sessions offered by either the union or the employer on the issue of harassment.
Finally, if you have any questions or require additional information on the above, you should contact your USJE Regional Vice-President or the USJE National Office for assistance.
Impact of Harassment
Harassment is a type of behaviour that undermines our ability to work together and it is a serious social and union issue. Harassment is not a joke, nor is it a joking matter. Its impact can range from feelings of uneasiness or discomfort to actual harm. It can be emotionally, psychologically and physically damaging. Harassment hurts.
Harassment affects people both directly and indirectly. Those who witness incidents of harassment may be deeply affected by what they see or hear. Beyond this, they must continue to operate in what may be a very tense, poisoned environment. In response, they may withdraw into silence, cease to actively participate, leave the union event or withdraw from union activity altogether. Harassment weakens our union.
As members of our union, we must each take responsibility for our own behaviour. The attitudes and behaviours of those who harass are not caused by the individuals they harass; they belong to the person who is harassing. While we live in a society that is not free from discrimination and prejudice, we are each individually responsible for how we act.
When harassment goes unquestioned and unchallenged, it leaves the wrong impression as to what is acceptable human interaction. It poisons the environment and may cause an escalation in the offensive behaviours.
For more specific information you can head to these two different sections:
- Harassment and the Role of the Canadian Human Rights Commission
- PSAC Policy on Union Representation - Workplace Harassment
- Sample Q&A - PSAC Policy on Representation Workplace Harassment for Local
- Guidelines for Investigating Member vs. Member Complaints/Grievances at the Workplace
- Violence in the Workplace
- Bullying in the Workplace
- Part XX Violence Prevention in the Workplace
- USJE Statement on Harassment
- PSAC Policy 23B - Ant-Harassment: the Union
- PSAC Policy 23B - Guidelines
- Application of PSAC Policy 23B
- Roles and Responsibilities
- Principles of Investigation
- The Harassment Complaint Committee Report
- Situations Involving Members and Staff
- Process for Implementation of Policy 23B
- Guidelines for Investigating Complaints at Union- Related Activities
- PSAC Constitution, Section 25
- PSAC Regulation 19