Prevention, protocols and sanctions.
The National Farmers Union (NFU) is committed to providing a work environment that is free of harassment and supportive of the self-esteem and dignity of every person within the NFU.
The NFU’s intent is to ensure there is a climate of understanding, cooperation and mutual respect. To be successful in this objective, it is incumbent upon all members of the NFU not to condone or tolerate behaviour that constitutes harassment.
The NFU will provide for a fair and prompt investigation of any complaint or concern without fear of reprisal.
This policy applies to complaints of harassment that involve employees, volunteers, and members of the NFU involved in meetings, or organizational events such as conventions.
This policy covers complaints of harassment and sexual harassment in the workplace, as defined below.
Harassment comprises any unwelcome or objectionable, physical, visual or verbal conduct, comment or display, whether intended or unintended, that is insulting, humiliating or degrading to another person, or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment and/or is on the basis of race, ethnicity, language, financial ability, religion, gender or sexual orientation or expression, disability or age, or any other kind of discrimination which is prohibited by the Canadian Human Rights Act (1977): made by an employee, volunteer, or member of the NFU;
- Directed at and offensive to any other employee, volunteer, member of the NFU, or any other individual or group that the person knew or reasonably ought to have known would be offensive (e.g., unintended).
Examples of harassment include, but are not limited to:
- Threats made or perceived, that are malicious, vexatious or based on any of the prohibited grounds under Human Rights legislation
- Derogatory written or verbal communication or gestures (e.g. name-calling, slurs, taunting pictures or posters, bullying, graffiti), that are malicious, vexatious or that relate to any of the prohibited grounds under the Canadian Human Rights Act
- Application of stereotypes or generalizations based on any of the prohibited grounds under the Canadian Human Rights Act
Sexual harassment means any unwelcome conduct, comment, gesture or contact of a sexual nature, whether on a one-time basis or in a continuous series of incidents that:
- Might reasonably be expected to cause offence, embarrassment or humiliation
- Might reasonably be expected to be perceived as placing a condition of a sexual nature on employment, services, or on any opportunity for training or advancement.
Examples of sexual harassment include, but are not limited to:
- Remarks, jokes, innuendoes or other comments regarding someone’s body, appearance, physical or sexual characteristics or clothing
- Displaying of sexually offensive or derogatory pictures, cartoons or other material
- Persistent unwelcome or uninvited invitations or requests
- Unwelcome questions or sharing of information regarding a person’s sexuality, sexual activity or sexual orientation
- Conduct or comments intended to create, or having the effect of, creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment
Bullying is an offensive, cruel, intimidating, insulting or humiliating behaviour which includes physical violence or the threat of physical violence. It can be physical or verbal, direct or indirect such as gossip. Bullying is considered harassment in general, unless there is physical contact or a threat of violence, where it is considered violence. Bullying is ill treatment which is not addressed under human rights legislation or criminal codes.
For the purposes of this policy, workplace includes any location in which employees and/or volunteers are engaged in NFU business activities necessary to perform their assignments. This includes, but is not limited to, NFU buildings, employee/ volunteer parking lots, employee/member organized social events, field locations, members’ or co-workers’ homes, and during business related travel.
Abuse of power
Abuse of power happens whenever a member, elected official or employee abuses or misuses his/her power and discretion for personal benefit, or in benefit of another person.
Abuse of power, for the purposes of this policy, includes situations involving a minor, situations that involve a reporting relationship, or any situation that includes an accusation from a client against an employee or member/volunteer who is providing a service upon which the client depends. Incidents that involved an abuse of power are considered by the NFU as being, generally, of a more serious nature than peer-to-peer situations.
A mediator is an impartial, neutral party, without decision-making powers, whom both parties accept. The mediator may be the applicable Human Resources (HR) representative, or other internal or external party. The goal of mediation is to assist both parties to reach a mutually beneficial agreement.
Prevention is always the first line of defense against occurrences of harassment. All employees and volunteers are reminded of their obligation to follow the NFU’s Code of Conduct, and to adhere to policies and procedures aimed at ensuring a positive work environment and the highest level of care for members. Beyond this, there is a duty upon all to prevent harassment by discouraging inappropriate activities and by reporting incidents, as per this policy.
Everyone has the right to:
- An environment that is free from harassment
- File a complaint when the environment is not free from harassment
- Be informed of complaints made against them
- Obtain an investigation of the complaint without fear of embarrassment or reprisal
- Have a fair hearing
- Be kept informed throughout the process and of remedial action taken
- A fair appeal process for both the respondent and complainant
- Confidentiality to the degree possible under the circumstances
- Representation by a third party
The people in an organization have the responsibility to ensure the safety and health of all those who come in contact with the NFU, whether that contact is as members, volunteers, or employees.
Organizations are obligated legally to take all complaints seriously by:
- Using due diligence, which is the obligation to take reasonable measures to provide appropriate service
- Being very familiar with the harassment policy and following it closely
- Following the process without bias
- Documenting all information from the first disclosure to the final resolution
- Recording only relevant facts – no feelings
- Signing and dating all documents
- Using common sense
Employees and Volunteers responsibilities:
All employees and volunteers are responsible for contributing to a positive work environment and for identifying and discouraging comments or activities that are contrary to this policy. This includes advising people or the alleged harasser that his/her behaviour is unwelcome should said members or volunteers feel it is safe to do so.
Where a situation occurs or where an employee or volunteer believes a situation has occurred, he/she is obligated to report it to the General Manager or Chair of National Human Resources Committee. If a situation occurs which involves their supervisor/manager, or if their supervisor/manager does not intervene appropriately, the employee/ volunteer may report the situation to another member of Human Resources Committee of the NFU.
General Manager’s responsibilities:
The General Manager (GM) is expected to eliminate any aspects of the work environment that are not in keeping with this policy, with consultation from the applicable HR representative.
The HR representative, working with the GM will:
- Advise parties of the process and legal parameters
- Facilitate communication between parties with a view to resolving conflict
- Ensure that the process is followed within the prescribed time frame
- Arrange for investigation, mediation or expertise, as required
- Coordinate the follow up actions
- Maintain original copies of all documentation pertaining to the resolution of differences
- Educate employees and volunteers on the application of this policy
The mediator shall:
- Determine the parties’ wishes and needs
- Establish the ground rules for the discussions, with all parties agreeing to the rules
- Explore with the parties different ways to get what each party needs and thus resolve the complaint
- Promptly make arrangements for a thorough and unbiased investigation to be conducted in as timely and confidential a manner as possible
- Inform all parties of their rights and responsibilities
- Secure all complaints and responses in writing, with dates, names, witnesses and full descriptions of the incident(s)
- Interview the parties involved and any witnesses to the behaviour, if necessary
- Notify any individual interviewed of their right to be accompanied by the representative of their choice
- Keep the parties to the complaint informed during the process, including providing the alleged harasser with full particulars of the allegations and a copy of the written complaint
- An individual accused of discrimination or harassment will be entitled to respond to the complaint and may wish to offer his/her perspective regarding the allegations and/or present a proposal for resolution
- Prepare a written report for the applicable GM and the National Chair of the Human Resources Committee (or HR designate) outlining the allegations of the complainant, the response of the alleged harasser, the evidence of any witnesses, and the conclusion reached
The National Chair of Human Resources Committee shall:
- Keep a confidential record of the number of complaints filed, the nature of these complaints, the outcome of the investigation and the type of corrective action taken
Situations where there has been an accusation of harassment are extremely sensitive and often complex. At all times, the emotional and physical safety of the complainant is paramount, and this may involve taking steps that are not outlined herein. In general, however, the following process should be taken:
–> Complaint Received
–> Mediate &/or Investigate
–> Action within 60 days
–> Appeal within 30 days
Complaint: In order to make an official complaint, a complainant should advise their supervisor/manager or the applicable HR representative. Any individual who receives any complaint against an employee, member or volunteer must refer it to the GM &/or HR representative. From here, there are three (3) possible actions:
- No Action: The behaviour is not found to be harassment, and the complainant agrees.
- Resolve: If the harassment is subtle or mild and the complainant agrees, the complaint is resolved informally with the assistance of the HR representative.
- Refer: If the complaint represents moderate or severe harassment or if the incident involves an abuse of power, then the complaint is referred to mediation/investigation or, in potentially criminal circumstances, the police.
- Mediate: The alleged harasser will be advised of the complaint, if this has not already happened. A mediator will be chosen by the GM and the HR representative, and confirmed provided the parties to the complaint agree. In the case where there is no agreement, alternative names will be considered. Mediation takes place and the situation is resolved to the satisfaction of both parties. A written report on the final status of the mediation is provided to the GM and the HR Representative within thirty (30) days of the complaint being filed. If no agreement for either a name or process is secured, then the case is referred to investigation.
- Investigate: Where, for whatever reason, the complaint remains unresolved, then the GM and the HR representative, in consultation with the National Chair, Human Resources, chooses an investigator.
- The investigator will conduct a thorough and unbiased investigation and provide a written report within sixty (60) days of the complaint being filed, including recommendations for action, to the GM, the HR Committee member, and the general counsel. They will confer with one another, and others as required, and the applicable person will make a decision as to the appropriate action within thirty (30) days of receiving the investigator’s report.
When considering the appropriate action, the GM or HR Committee member, will consider the evidence, the nature of the harassment, whether physical contact was involved, whether the situation was isolated, and whether there was an abuse of power.
Actions may include:
- Verbal or written apologies
- A letter of reprimand or suspension
- A referral to counseling
- Sensitivity training
- Demotion or transfer
- Termination of employment, volunteer activity and/or membership
- Referral to police or other legal authorities
- Other sanctions
Either the complainant or alleged harasser may, within thirty (30) days of being notified of the action, submit an appeal, in writing, to the GM, National Chair of HR Committee or designate (designate is not limited to NFU Board of Directors or Staff). In the event that the GM or Chair determines that further investigation is required, any additional findings shall be disclosed to the parties, who will be provided with an opportunity to respond. The GM or HR Committee Chair will then review the record and determine whether or not a violation of the NFU policy has occurred within sixty (60) days of the appeal being filed.
Complaints of harassment will be received and investigated in a confidential manner in accordance with the procedures, including prescribing corrective action. Information that must be shared will be disclosed on a need-to-know basis.
Any allegation or complaint of discrimination, harassment or sexual harassment will be considered personal information ‘supplied in confidence’. The name of the complainant or the circumstances of the complaint will not be disclosed to any person except where disclosure is necessary for the purpose of investigating the complaint. The substance of investigative reports and the substance of meetings held by those in authority regardless of whether it is substantiated will be protected from disclosure to third parties, except where required for legal reasons.
Strict confidentiality cannot be guaranteed to anyone who wants to make a complaint of harassment. If a complaint goes through an investigation, the respondent and other people involved will have to learn about the complaint. The complainant can be assured that only people who ‘need-to-know’ will be told of the complaint.
No investigation information is to be kept on the employee/volunteer’s personnel file with the exception of official disciplinary/termination papers. Similar to problem resolution cases, harassment investigation information should be kept indefinitely in a separate file. Proven allegations of harassment or sexual harassment, including disciplinary action taken shall be documented and form part of the employee/volunteer’s permanent record.
Harassment by an employee, member or volunteer is a serious offence. If an accusation is substantiated, the harasser will be subject to immediate disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal in the case of an employee, or revocation of membership in the case of a member. Intentionally accusing someone of harassment, known to be false, is a serious offence and is subject to disciplinary action. The NFU reserves the right to discipline those whose complaints are deemed frivolous or vexatious.
Any interference with the conduct of an investigation, or retaliation against a complainant, respondent or witness, may itself result in disciplinary action.
Criteria in determining level of disciplinary action shall be based on the facts determined over the course of the mediation/investigation, and will take into account harm to the individual, harm to the NFU and its reputation, and whether or not there was an unequal power relationship.
Where the conduct involves, or may involve, criminal activity, the NFU reserves the right to invoke criminal charges.
Employees and volunteers have a duty to disclose criminal activity.
Human Rights Commission
Nothing in this policy shall be deemed to limit the right of an employee, member, or volunteer to seek assistance from the provincial/territorial Human Rights Commission.
In the event that any of the parties to an allegation is a member of the National HR Committee or the GM, the complainant may, at their option, elect to have a member of the National Executive to fulfill the role contemplated in these procedures for the National Chair, HR or GMr. All of the other provisions of these procedures shall remain in effect.
The NFU Human Resources Committee is responsible for advising stakeholders, maintaining, monitoring, and revising this policy from time to time for approval from board; and for authorizing exceptions.