Anti-Discrimination and Freedom from Violence and Harassment in the Workplace

Last Update: March 1, 2017

In this policy the Joint Health and Safety Committee will consist of Andrew Feldstein and a representative of the staff.

In this policy, Human Resources refers to Melanie Rain.

This policy applies to all employees, contractors, consultants and agents of Feldstein Family Law Group (the “Firm“) (collectively referred to as “employees“), as well as non-employees doing business with the Firm, including customers, clients and other members of the public. This policy covers conduct which occurs in the workplace, which includes any location in which employees are engaged in business activities necessary to perform their jobs. The policy therefore applies to business travel, work-related social occasions or other locations where the prohibited behavior may have an impact on relationships between/amongst employees, the work environment or employee performance.

The policy also applies to indirect methods of interaction between/amongst the above individuals including, but not limited to, telephone calls, email communications, written communications and all forms of social media.

The Firm is committed to maintaining a work environment that encourages respect for the dignity of each individual. At the Firm, harassment or violence in any form, whether verbal, physical or environmental, and/or discrimination which is directed toward a person’s sex, gender identity, gender expression, race, age, marital status, disability, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, same-sex partnership status, or any other classification protected by law, is prohibited.

The Firm encourages all employees to report all incidents of discrimination, harassment or violence to the appropriate person, following the procedure set out below. The Firm will investigate and deal with all complaints or incidents of workplace discrimination, harassment and violence in a fair and timely manner.

The Firm considers any violation of this policy a serious offence that will lead to discipline, up to and including termination of employment for cause.

1.1 THE FIRM’S COMMITMENT TO A SAFE WORKPLACE

In consultation with the Joint Health and Safety Committee, the Firm has developed and maintains a program to implement this policy, as set out below. In particular, the Firm has assessed the risks of Workplace Harassment and Workplace Violence that may arise given the nature of the workplace, the type of work, or the conditions of work, and has advised the Joint Health and Safety Committee of the results of the assessment.

The Firm will regularly review this policy and program, and reassess the risks of Workplace Harassment and Workplace Violence, in order to ensure that this policy and program continues to protect employees from Workplace Harassment and Workplace Violence. This review will occur as often as is necessary, but at the minimum on an annual basis.

1.2 WORKPLACE DISCRIMINATION

Workplace discrimination includes any distinction, exclusion or preference based on the protected grounds in the Ontario Human Rights Code, which nullifies or impairs equality of opportunity in employment, or equality in the terms and conditions of employment. It may be intentional or unintentional. It may involve direct actions that are discriminatory on their face, or it may involve rules, practices or procedures that appear neutral, but have the effect of disadvantaging certain individuals or groups of people.

1.3 WORKPLACE HARASSMENT

Workplace Harassment is defined as “engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct against a person in a workplace that is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome”, and includes Workplace Sexual Harassment, as defined below. It is bullying or humiliating behaviour that, generally speaking, has some or all of the following components:

  • it is generally repetitive, but a single serious incidence of such behaviour may constitute Workplace Harassment if it undermines the recipient’s psychological or physical integrity and has a lasting harmful effect;
  • it is hostile, abusive or inappropriate;
  • it affects the person’s dignity or psychological integrity; and,
  • it results in a poisoned work environment.

Workplace Harassment should not be confused with legitimate management actions, including measures to correct performance deficiencies or to impose discipline for workplace infractions. A reasonable action taken by a Manager or Supervisor relating to the management and direction of workers, their performance, or the workplace is not Workplace Harassment.

Some examples of Workplace Harassment are:

  • verbally abusive behaviour such as teasing, yelling, insults and name calling;
  • persistent, excessive and unjustified criticism and constant scrutiny; spreading malicious rumours;
  • excluding or ignoring someone;
  • undermining someone else’s efforts by setting impossible goals and deadlines;
  • sabotaging someone else’s work;
  • impeding an individual’s efforts at promotions or transfers;
  • making false allegations about someone in memos or other work related documents.

Discriminatory Workplace Harassment is a form of Workplace Harassment, and includes comments or conduct based on the protected grounds in the Ontario Human Rights Code, which the recipient does not welcome or that offends him or her.

While it is impossible to list all possible forms of inappropriate behaviour, some examples of Discriminatory Workplace Harassment are:

  • offensive comments, jokes or behaviour that disparage or ridicule a person’s membership in one of the protected grounds, such as race, religion, sexual orientation or gender expression;
  • imitating a person’s accent, speech or mannerisms;
  • persistent or inappropriate questions about whether a person is pregnant, has children or plans to have children;
  • inappropriate comments or jokes about an individual’s age, sexual orientation, personal relationships, personal appearance or weight;
  • display or circulation of any materials which may adversely affect any person, and is related to their sex, race, age, marital status, disability, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or any other protected ground; and,
  • verbal abuse or insults directed at or made in the presence of members of a racial, ethnic or minority group.

Any individual who engages in any form of discrimination or harassment which affects the work environment of any employee of the Firm violates this policy regardless of whether the conduct was intended to be offensive. Employees must not engage in harassing, discriminatory, threatening, intimidating or disruptive behaviour.

1.4 WORKPLACE SEXUAL HARASSMENT

Workplace Sexual Harassment means,

(a) engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct against a person in the workplace because of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, where the course of comment or conduct is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome; or

(b) making a sexual solicitation or advance where the person making the solicitation or advance is in a position to confer, grant or deny a benefit or advancement to the recipient, and the person knows or ought reasonably to know that the solicitation or advance is unwelcome.

Workplace Sexual Harassment includes conduct or comments of a sexual nature that the recipient does not welcome or that offend him or her. It also includes negative or inappropriate conduct or comments that are not necessarily sexual in nature, but which are directed at an individual because of his or her gender.

Workplace Sexual Harassment can include behaviour by men toward women, by men toward men, by women toward men and by women toward women.

Some examples of Workplace Sexual Harassment are:

  • unwelcome sexual flirtations, advances or propositions;
  • offering a benefit in exchange for a sexual favour, or threats, punishment or denial of a benefit for refusing a sexual advance;
  • displaying sexually offensive material such as posters, pictures, calendars, cartoons, screen savers, pornographic or erotic web sites or other electronic material;
  • sexual or sexually degrading jokes, language, epithets, or vulgar words; comments, remarks, jokes, innuendoes, or taunting about an individual’s body, sexual orientation, sexual prowess or sexual deficiencies;
  • questions about sexual conduct;
  • harassment consistently targeted at only one sex, even if the content of the harassment is not sexual;
  • touching, leering, whistling, brushing against the body, or suggestive, insulting, or obscene comments or gestures;
  • distributing sexually explicit e-mail messages or attachments;
  • sexually suggestive or obscene comments or gestures;
  • persistent, unwanted attention after a consensual relationship ends;
  • physical contact of a sexual nature, such as touching or caressing; and,
  • sexual assault or coerced sexual acts.

While in some cases, individuals may make sexual comments, jokes or personal advances without intending harm, such actions may be unwelcome, threatening or offensive, and perceived as harassment.

1.5 POISONED WORK ENVIRONMENT

Even if no one is being directly targeted, inappropriate comments or conduct can poison the work environment, making it a hostile or uncomfortable place in which to work. This is a form of Workplace Harassment. Some examples of behaviour that can create a poisoned work environment include:

  • displaying or circulating offensive or sexual materials such as posters, pictures, calendars, web sites or screen savers;
  • distributing offensive e-mail messages, or attachments such as pictures or video files;
  • practical jokes that embarrass or insult someone; or,
  • jokes or insults that are offensive, racist or discriminatory in nature.

1.6 HARASSMENT BY AN OUTSIDER

If it is believed that someone who is not a member of the Firm, e.g., a customer, supplier, etc., has harassed an employee of the Firm or a member of the Firm, please follow the reporting procedure set out below.

Although management has limited control over third parties, action will be taken to address any matter brought to its attention and to prevent further problems from arising.

1.7 WORKPLACE VIOLENCE

Workplace Violence is:

  • the exercise of physical force by a person against another person, in the workplace, that causes or could cause physical injury to the person;
  • an attempt to exercise physical force against a person, in the workplace, that could cause physical injury to the person;
  • a statement or behavior that it is reasonable for a person to interpret as a threat to exercise physical force against a person, in the workplace, that could cause physical injury to the person.

Workplace Violence includes acts of aggression, physical assaults or threats. Some examples of Workplace Violence are:

  • physically abusive or aggressive behaviour such as pushing, hitting, biting, kicking, finger pointing or standing close to someone in an aggressive manner;
  • sexual assault;
  • using or threatening to use a weapon; and
  • any threat, behaviour or action which is interpreted to carry the potential to harm or danger the safety of others, result in an act of aggression, or destroy or damage property.

1.8 DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

All employees are encouraged to advise Human Resources, of an issue in the individual’s non-work life that might impact on the safety of the individual or a co-worker at the workplace.

Any employee who applies for or obtains a restraining order or peace bond which lists the Firm offices or the work or other location of another Firm employee as being a protected area should provide their Human Resources with a copy of the restraining order or peace bond and any other relevant documents or information requested.

If the Firm is aware that domestic violence is likely to expose an employee to Workplace Violence, or impact the safety of any employee in the workplace, every precaution reasonable in the circumstances will be implemented to protect the employee at the workplace.

1.9 HISTORY OF VIOLENT BEHAVIOUR

If the Firm is aware that a person with a history of violent behaviour is likely to expose its employees to Workplace Violence, or impact the safety of any employee in the workplace, every precaution reasonable in the circumstances will be implemented to protect the Firm employees at the workplace.

The Firm has a duty under the Occupational Health and Safety Act to disclose information about a risk of violence in the workplace to its employees. This includes the disclosure of personal information about a person with a history of violent behaviour to those employees who:

  • can be expected to encounter the person in their work; and
  • are likely to be exposed to physical injury due to the risk of Workplace Violence.

The Firm will only disclose the personal information that is reasonably necessary to protect those employees that fall under the categories identified above.

1.10 WHEN YOU WITNESS OR ARE A VICTIM OF WORKPLACE VIOLENCE

All employees are expected to comply with the provisions of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

You should take all necessary and reasonable steps to ensure your own safety and the safety of others, including seeking first aid or medical assistance if necessary.

In the event of an emergency, you should call 911 or building security should be contacted immediately as applicable and as appropriate.

You should also immediately report the incident or potentially dangerous situation, including threats or attempts of Workplace Violence, to your Human Resources. The Firm will actively intervene at any indication of any actual or possible hostile or violent situation. This intervention may include calling the police, an ambulance, building security or the Ministry of Labour. Employees are expected to cooperate with the police, Firm investigators or other authorities as required during any investigation related to this policy. The process for employees to report incidents and complaints of Workplace Violence is as set out below. The Firm will investigate and deal with incidents and/or complaints of Workplace Violence in accordance with this process.

1.11 WHEN YOU WITNESS OR ARE A VICTIM OF WORKPLACE HARASSMENT – REPORTING AND INVESTIGATION PROCEDURE

All employees are expected to comply with the provisions of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Every employee has a duty to report incidents or suspected incidents of discrimination, Workplace Harassment or Workplace Violence.

First Step

If an employee believes that he or she, or any other employee, is being harassed, the first step is to ask the person responsible to stop. Do so as soon as any unwelcome comments or conduct occurs. Although this may be difficult, telling the person their actions or comments are inappropriate is often enough to stop the behaviour.

The Firm recognizes that power and status disparities between an alleged harasser and the other person involved may make such a discussion difficult or impossible. If that is the case, then the employee suffering alleged harassment should notify the Firm as set out below.

Second Step

If drawing the inappropriate behaviour to the attention of the alleged harasser does not result in an end to the behavior, or where such a discussion is not possible, an employee who believes he or she has been subjected to discrimination, Workplace Harassment or Workplace Violence should report the incident to a Supervisor or Manager as soon as possible.

In circumstances where an employee believes they are being subjected to discrimination, Workplace Harassment or Workplace Violence by their Supervisor and/or Manager, the employee should report the incident directly to Human Resources.

Verbal reports of discrimination, Workplace Harassment or Workplace Violence should be reduced to writing by either the complainant or the individuals) designated to receive complaints, and be signed by
the complainant. An accurate record of objectionable behaviour or misconduct is needed to resolve a complaint of discrimination, Workplace Harassment or Workplace Violence. The written complaint should include:

  • the name of the complainant and their contact information;
  • the name, position and contact information of the respondent;
  • the names of any witnesses or other persons with relevant information to provide about the incident and, if known, their contact information;
  • details of the incident, including what happened, dates, times, frequency and location of the alleged incidents; and
  • any other relevant information.

A complainant may also attach supporting documents to their written complaint, or list any documents a witness, another person or the respondent may have in their possession that are relevant to the complaint. Human Resources shall be notified of the incident or complaint of discrimination, Workplace Harassment or Workplace Violence, so they can ensure that an investigation is conducted that is appropriate in the circumstances.

The Firm encourages prompt reporting of complaints, which allows for a more rapid response and investigation. However, due to the nature and sensitivity of these kinds of problems, and because of the emotional toll such misconduct may have, no limited time frame will be instituted for reporting complaints under this policy. Late reporting of a complaint will not, in and of itself, preclude the Firm from taking remedial action.

Any employee who witnesses an incident of discrimination, Workplace Harassment or Workplace Violence should immediately follow these same steps to report the incident. This duty to report applies even in situations where the apparent victim requests that the behaviour not be reported.

Managers and Supervisors

Managers and Supervisors have the additional responsibility to act immediately on observations or allegations of discrimination, Workplace Harassment or Workplace Violence. Managers and Supervisors are responsible for creating and maintaining a discrimination and harassment free workplace, and should address potential problems before they become serious.

Managers and Supervisors are also responsible for assessing the risk of Workplace Violence to employees, minimizing those risks where necessary or reasonably possible and informing any affected employee of such risk or potential risk. They must respond promptly to all reports of Workplace Violence.

Investigating the Complaint

Where a complaint of discrimination, Workplace Harassment or Workplace Violence is made, or where the Firm becomes aware of an incident of discrimination, Workplace Harassment or Workplace Violence, the Firm will conduct an objective investigation that is appropriate in the circumstances. The investigation will be conducted in a fair and timely manner. Absent extenuating circumstances, the Firm will endeavor to carry out the investigation within 90 calendar days of the incident or complaint.

An impartial internal or external investigator will be appointed by the Firm, in its discretion, depending on the nature of the complaint and/or the parties involved. An external investigator may be required where the allegations are made against a senior member of the Firm’s management or executive team, or where the complaint is complex in nature.

In the case of Workplace Violence, the investigation will involve the Joint Health and Safety Committee and/or the Ministry of Labour as may be required by the Occupational Health and Safety Act, depending on the nature of the complaint.

The investigator will:

  • provide the respondent with an opportunity to respond to the specific allegations raised by the complainant;
  • thoroughly interview the complainant and respondent to ascertain and/or confirm all of the facts and circumstances relevant to the complaint, including dates and locations;
  • conduct separate interviews of witnesses, if any;
  • make reasonable efforts to interview any parties or relevant witnesses who are not employees of the Firm;
  • take appropriate notes and statements during all interviews;
  • collect and review any relevant documents; and
  • any other requirements that may be stipulated by the provisions of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

As appropriate, the complainant and respondent will be kept informed as to the status of the investigation.

Confidentiality will be maintained throughout the investigation to the extent that is both practical and appropriate in the circumstances. Information that is obtained about an incident or complaint of discrimination, Workplace Harassment or Workplace Violence, including identifying information about any individuals involved, will not be disclosed unless disclosure is necessary to protect employees, to investigate the incident or complaint, to take corrective action with respect to the incident or complaint, or is otherwise required by law. While the investigation is ongoing, the complainant, the respondent and any witnesses must not discuss the complaint, incident or investigation with other employees or witnesses except as necessary to obtain advice with respect to their rights.

Once a complaint has been made, and during the course of the investigation, the Firm may take interim steps to ensure the safety and comfort of its employees, as well as the continued efficient operation of the Firm itself. This could include suspensions, temporary transfers, paid leaves of absence, and other actions deemed necessary, pending the outcome of the investigation.

Resolving the Complaint

The investigator(s) will prepare a final written report summarizing the steps taken during the investigation, the complaint, the allegations of the complainant, the response from the respondent, the evidence of any witnesses and the evidence gathered. The investigator(s) will also set out in the report their findings of fact and their conclusion with respect to whether discrimination, Workplace Harassment or Workplace Violence was found or not. The Firm will review the investigation report and determine what corrective action, if any, is required and appropriate in the circumstances.

Absent extenuating circumstances, the Firm will endeavor to communicate the results of the investigation and any corrective action to be taken to the complainant and the respondent, in writing, within 10 days of the conclusion of the investigation.

1.12 SANCTIONS

Individuals found to have engaged in misconduct constituting discrimination, Workplace Harassment or Workplace Violence will be disciplined. Disciplinary action may include any one or more of the following: requiring an apology, referral to counseling, training, withholding of a promotion, reassignment, temporary suspension with or without pay, verbal or written reprimand, termination or other legal action. Appropriate sanctions will be determined by the Firm, at its discretion.

1.13 APPEALS PROCESS

If any party directly involved in an investigation is dissatisfied with the outcome or resolution, that individual has the right to appeal the decision. The dissatisfied party should submit his/her written comments in a timely manner to Human Resources. Human Resources, in consultation with legal counsel, if deemed appropriate, will render a decision on the appeal. The decision of Human Resources shall be final.

1.14 RECORD OF COMPLAINTS

The Firm shall maintain a complete written record of each complaint, how it was investigated and how it was resolved. This will include the following information:

a. a copy of the complaint or details about the incident;

b. a record of the investigation including notes;

c. copy of witness statements, if taken;

d. a copy of the investigation report, if any;

e. a copy of the results of the investigation that were provided to the complainant and respondent; and

f. a copy of any corrective action taken to address the complaint or incident.

Written records shall be maintained in a confidential manner by Human Resources for an appropriate period of time, but in any event for no less than one year.

1.15 PROTECTION AGAINST RETALIATION

Retaliation for reporting discrimination, Workplace Harassment or Workplace Violence is strictly prohibited. Any form of retaliation is a very serious violation of this policy and any behaviour indicating any form of retaliation should be reported immediately to any of the management staff listed in this policy. Individuals who are not themselves complainants, but who assist in an investigation, will also be protected from retaliation in the same manner in which the complainant is protected.

1.16 FALSE ACCUSATIONS

The Firm recognizes that whether or not a particular course of conduct constitutes discrimination, Workplace Harassment or Workplace Violence, requires a factual determination. The Firm also recognizes that false accusations can have serious effects on innocent persons. If, after investigation, it is clear that a complainant has deliberately or negligently made a false accusation, the complainant may be subject to appropriate discipline up to and including dismissal. However, any complaint, made in good faith, which results in a finding that there was no discrimination, Workplace Harassment or Workplace Violence, shall not result in adverse, job-related consequences for the complainant.

1.17 INVESTIGATIONS WITHOUT COMPLAINTS

If the Firm has reason to believe that discrimination, Workplace Harassment or Workplace Violence has occurred, other than as a result of a complaint made under this policy, it may independently initiate an investigation.

1.18 OTHER RESOURCES

Employees who require additional assistance may wish to speak with a member of the Joint Health and Safety Committee. The provisions of this policy in no way affect the right of any person to exercise his or her rights under the Ontario Human Rights Code or the Occupational Health and Safety Act within the time-limits specified by those pieces of legislation.

1.19 EDUCATION AND TRAINING

All employees will receive education and training on this policy which is appropriate to their role, and the Firm will provide these training sessions.

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