Respectful Workplace Policy: Addressing and Preventing Sexual Harassment, Harassment and Bullying

1. POLICY

Every observer, member of elections staff and the public are entitled to work in an environment that is respectful and free of all forms of harassment, including sexual harassment and bullying.

A respectful working and volunteering environment requires the cooperation and support of each and every person. Volunteers must set a positive example and avoid behaving disrespectfully, including behaviour that would reasonably offend, intimidate, embarrass or humiliate others, whether deliberately or unintentionally. Disrespectful behaviour, sexual harassment, harassment and/or bullying will not be tolerated.

Any volunteer who experiences or witnesses behaviour in violation of this policy is encouraged to address it using the process outlined in this policy. More serious forms of inappropriate behaviour (e.g. sexual harassment, harassment/bullying and/or workplace violence) should be reported immediately to an appropriate reporting contact.

Volunteers are not required to make a formal complaint. However, core team members are obligated to address an issue they have been made aware of if necessary, to maintain a harassment-free workplace for all volunteers. If a supervisor observes or is advised of more serious forms of inappropriate behaviour (e.g. sexual harassment, harassment/bullying and/or workplace violence), they must not wait until a formal complaint is made to address it; rather, they have a responsibility to address it immediately. This pertains to concerns involving another supervisor, another supervisor’s staff, a contractor, client (e.g. the public) and/or political staff.

This policy does not limit the core team’s right to manage. Performance reviews, work assignment and evaluation, and disciplinary measures taken by the employer for any valid reason do not constitute disrespectful behaviour, sexual harassment, harassment and/or bullying.

2. APPLICATION

This policy applies to all Democracy Volunteers employees and their interactions with:

  • Other employees/volunteers
  • Contractors
  • Members of the public
  • Political staff
  • Political and non-political staff
  • Constituency assistants
  • Volunteers

This policy applies to the workplace itself, as well as activities connected with the workplace (e.g. travel, conferences, online, work related social gatherings, etc.).

It is recognised that volunteer and employee interactions can occur outside of the workplace and/or outside of working hours. The policy applies to inappropriate off-duty conduct that:

  • Reflects negatively on Democracy Volunteers
  • Affects the employee’s/volunteer’s ability to perform their work duties effectively
  • Makes other employees/volunteers reluctant to work with them
  • Restricts the core team’s ability to meet operational requirements

3. BEHAVIOURAL DEFINITIONS

The following definitions describe a spectrum of behaviours that vary in severity. A list of definitions for other procedural terms used throughout this policy can be found here.

Behaviour can be deemed inappropriate even if an employee/volunteer did not intend it to be.

A tool has been developed for employees, volunteers and supervisors that provides specific examples of the varying types of behaviour: Overview of the Resolution Process for Addressing Inappropriate Behaviour.

  • Respectful Behaviour: This behaviour values diversity, inclusion, dignity, courteous conduct, mutual respect, fairness, equality, and promotes positive communication and collaborative working relationships.
  • Inappropriate Behaviour: This is an overarching term used to describe disrespectful behaviour, sexual harassment, harassment, bullying and/or workplace violence.
  • Disrespectful Behaviour: This behaviour is disruptive to positive communication, courteous conduct and collaborative working relationships (e.g. gossip, interruptions). Behaviour may also be disrespectful if it does not value diversity, inclusion, dignity, fairness and equality. More objectionable and severe forms of disrespectful behaviour are considered harassment and/or bullying.

Harassment: we define two different forms of harassment:

  • Objectionable conduct that creates a risk to the health of a worker
  • Conduct is objectionable if it is based on race, creed, religion, colour, sex, sexual orientation, gender-determined characteristics, marital status, family status, source of income, political belief, political association, political activity, disability, physical size or weight, age, nationality, ancestry or place of origin; and/or

Bullying behaviour

  • This behaviour includes severe conduct that adversely affects a person’s psychological or physical well-being. Conduct is considered severe if it is:
  • repeated humiliation or intimidation that adversely affects a person’s psychological or physical well-being; or
  • a single instance so serious that it has a lasting, harmful effect on a person.
  • Harassment may be written, verbal, physical, online or electronic, a gesture or display, or any combination of these. It may happen only once, but often happens repeatedly.

Sexual Harassment: This form of harassment is based on sex, gender (how one identifies including gender identity or expression or gender-determined characteristics) or sexual orientation. Sexual harassment can be sexual in nature, but can also include any form of harassment based on sex, gender or sexual orientation.

Sexual harassment can also refer to behaviour that creates or permits a sexualized or sexually charged, or a negative / poisoned work atmosphere.

Sexual harassment includes, but is not limited to:

  • Abusive remarks or behaviours based on sex, gender or sexual orientation
  • Objectionable and unwelcome sexual solicitations or advances
  • A reprisal, retaliation or threat of retaliation for rejecting a sexual solicitation or advance
  • A reprisal or threat of reprisal for filing a sexual harassment complaint
  • Sexual harassment may be written, verbal, physical, online or electronic, a gesture or display, or any combination of these.

Workplace Violence: This term refers to the attempted or actual exercise of physical force against a person, or any threatening statement or behaviour that gives a person reasonable cause to believe that physical force will be used against the person.

4. PROCESS

This policy outlines three steps in addressing inappropriate behaviour.

Step 1: Assessing the Options Available – There are a number of reporting options and post-incident supports that employees/volunteers can access when they have experienced inappropriate behaviour. These options are available so employees/volunteers can feel more comfortable coming forward and raising concerns to ensure that inappropriate behaviour stops.

Step 2: Addressing Inappropriate Behaviour – For less severe forms of inappropriate behaviour (e.g. disrespect), employees should first consider whether they can resolve the matter informally (e.g. speaking to the other person, or seeking the advice or support of a supervisor or other post-incident supports). If an employee is not comfortable addressing the situation informally, or for more severe forms of inappropriate behaviour (e.g. harassment, sexual harassment and/or workplace violence), they should report the incident to an appropriate reporting contact.

Note: A supervisor or anyone receiving a complaint of sexual harassment must document the complaint using the Complaint of Inappropriate Conduct form and report it immediately to human resources.

Step 3: Ensuring Workplace Restoration – After a situation involving inappropriate behaviour has been addressed, supervisors are responsible to ensure there are measures in place to maintain respect in the workplace.

Note: Behavioural concerns may involve third parties such as members of the public, contractors. Clients other elections staff. The same steps outlined above would be applicable to those situations as well to address any inappropriate behaviour from third parties.

To support these steps, the following tools have been developed for employees and supervisors:

  • Overview of the Resolution Process for Addressing Inappropriate Behaviour
  • Reporting Contacts and Post-Incident Supports

5. IMPORTANT PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICES

Confidentiality and Anonymity

Supervisors, human resources and/or anyone else who receives a complaint or is involved in an investigation will not disclose the name of a complainant, alleged respondent or the circumstances related to the issue to any person except where the disclosure is necessary to investigate, take corrective action, or is required by law. However, it is important to note that confidentiality does not mean anonymity. Confidentiality is subject to the following limitations:

  • A supervisor is responsible for addressing every reported issue.
  • The person alleged to have acted inappropriately (the respondent) is informed of the allegations in sufficient detail to respond fully.
  • It may be necessary to interview witnesses.
  • If the situation results in discipline, the disciplined employee has the right to grieve, and any resulting process may involve witnesses, including the complainant.
  • These limitations on confidentiality should not discourage employees from reporting a concern.

Timeliness

Reported issues will be resolved as soon as reasonably possible and without undue delay. When concerns are raised with a reporting contact, generally, complainants will be advised of next steps either verbally or in writing within five to seven business days. This update is typically provided by the employee’s supervisor (or another level of management if the concern is with the supervisor) or human resources.

Formal complaints may take longer to actually investigate. Generally, investigations are concluded within 30 business days of receiving a complaint. Every effort will be made to complete an investigation within that time; however, there may be extenuating circumstances. If there are delays, the complainant and respondent will be advised of the cause of the delay. During an investigation, regular timeline updates (e.g. every 10 business days) will be provided to the complainant and respondent to ensure communication is maintained throughout the investigation process.

Reprisal/Retaliation

Reprisal is not permitted against an employee exercising their rights in good faith under this policy. Any act of reprisal will be cause for disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment. Reprisal can include, but is not limited to, an actual or threatened harmful act, penalising someone for making a complaint (e.g. a supervisor purposely giving stricter deadlines or an unmanageable workload after a complaint is made), withholding a benefit for making a complaint (e.g. future negative implications to career such as loss of job opportunities), or attempting to isolate or exclude an employee from work activities.  

False Allegations

If it is determined that a false complaint was deliberately made for frivolous or vindictive reasons, the employee who made the false allegation may be subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment. This does not apply to complaints made in good faith that are unproven or unsubstantiated (see Procedural Definitions for Substantiated Allegation and Unsubstantiated Allegation).

6. ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES

All Employees/Volunteers

A respectful workplace requires cooperation and support from each and every employee in the organisation. Employees/volunteers who experience or witness behaviour in violation of this policy are encouraged to address it using the process outlined in this policy.

All employees are responsible for their behaviour and must:

  • Demonstrate respect in the workplace at all times.
  • Behave in a manner that will not reasonably offend, intimidate, embarrass or humiliate others, whether deliberate or unintentional.
  • Refrain from participating in all types of inappropriate behaviour that could reasonably be perceived to be disrespectful behaviour, sexual harassment, harassment and/or bullying.
  • Take all mandatory respectful workplace and harassment prevention training.
  • Cooperate in the resolution process as required.

Senior Management

  • Follow the roles and responsibilities as outlined for all employees and supervisors.
  • Provide leadership related to respectful workplaces, including modelling and inspiring exemplary behaviour (e.g. lead by example and set the appropriate tone).
  • Ensure awareness and compliance with this policy and any other legislation or applicable policies.
  • Ensure all supervisors are adhering to this policy and understand their roles and responsibilities.
  • Ensure there is no reprisal against anyone who has come forward and made a complaint in good faith.  

Supervisors

  • Follow the roles and responsibilities as outlined for all employees.
  • Promote and take responsibility for fostering a workplace culture of respect, including setting a positive example of respectful behaviour.
  • Ensure employees are aware of the policy and expected behaviours in the workplace, and have taken the applicable mandatory respectful workplace and harassment prevention training.
  • Intervene promptly once aware of sexual harassment, harassment/bullying and/or workplace violence.
  • Immediately contact human resources for guidance and assistance for complaints of sexual harassment, harassment/bullying and/or workplace violence.
  • Ensure complaints are handled fairly, confidentially, effectively and in a timely manner, and that appropriate action is taken respecting any person under the supervisor’s direction.
  • Ensure complaints and all actions taken to resolve the issue are documented. All complaints of sexual harassment must be documented using the Complaint of Inappropriate Conduct form and reported immediately to human resources.
  • Ensure there is no reprisal/retaliation against anyone who has come forward and made a complaint in good faith.
  • Ensure workplace restoration measures are put in place following the resolution of a situation involving inappropriate behaviour.

Democracy Volunteers Board of Directors

(Revised and Updated) 4th May 2021