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Complaint Procedures

Employers are required to have anti-violence and anti-harassment policies in place under Occupational Health and Safety rules.  We recommend ensuring that your business’ policies address the following items. If your business’ policies do not address these items, each of these items should be considered to ensure you are following a supportable process in receiving, investigating, and resolving workplace complaints.

To ensure you are taking the best steps possible, please contact our team of employment lawyers to discuss your unique circumstances.

Procedures for Reporting Complaints

  • Identify the person (or persons) to whom incidents and complaints can be reported
  • Identify an alternative reporting contact for situations in which the primary contact is in a conflict of interest (i.e. he or she may be the alleged bully)
  • Ask workers (whether target or bystander) to report incidents of harassment as soon as possible, so that they may be investigated and dealt with promptly, and before the situation becomes worse
  • Encourage complainants to keep a record of and provide as much information as possible regarding alleged harassment
  • A complaint form can be useful in gathering the necessary information. It should include:
    • Names of the persons involved
    • Location, date and time of incident(s)
    • Any witnesses to the incident(s)
    • Details about the incident(s) (behaviour, words used)
    • Any additional information (such as background, context)
  • Relevant evidence supporting the complaint (such as emails, texts, handwritten notes, photos, or physical evidence)
  • Review reporting procedures annually, and revise as needed)

Procedures for Investigating Complaints

  • Determine whether the alleged behaviour meets the definition of harassment. If you are not sure, seek legal advice
  • Begin an investigation promptly and ensure it is completed in a timely manner based on the circumstances
  • Identify the appropriate person to conduct the investigation. It should be a neutral, impartial person, who has had training in conducting harassment investigations Consider whether the circumstances allow for an internal investigator or whether it would be better to have an external third party investigate (i.e. in complex or sensitive situations, or where there is no neutral, impartial person to conduct the investigation – such as in a small company)
  • Explain the investigation process to both the complainant and respondent, including how the investigation will be conducted, the roles and responsibilities of those involved in the investigation, the expected timetable, and rules regarding confidentiality of information gathered during the investigation
  • Ensure workers are aware of their obligation to cooperate with the investigator and to be forthcoming with information requested by the investigator
  • Accommodate, where necessary, any need or request from the complainant or respondent for assistance during the investigation process
  • Focus on finding facts and evidence using a standard process. The standard process should include separate interviews with complainant, respondent, and any witnesses, and a review of any documentary or physical evidence
  • Make a decision based on all the evidence as to whether harassment has occurred
  • Make a decision (or recommendation) as to any corrective action to be taken
  • Consider appropriate disciplinary action against the offender, and any corrective action pertaining to the organization itself
  • Consider whether the matter can be appropriately and effectively mediated – may help to repair the damaged relationship
  • Consider what assistance will be required by someone adversely affected by the bullying/harassment
  • Review investigation procedures annually, and revise as needed

Post-Investigation Procedures

  • Meet separately and confidentially with the complainant and respondent to explain the investigator’s findings
  • Promptly take any corrective action required, as determined based on the investigator’s findings and set time frames for completion of actions to be taken. Corrective action can include updating policies, providing education and training to workers, reminding workers and supervisors of their responsibilities regarding harassment
  • Have periodic follow-up meetings with complainant and respondent to assess the need for any further intervention
  • Ensure that any employees adversely affected by the situation are aware of the assistance and supports available to them. This might include a target of the bullying, a witness to the bullying, someone falsely accused, or even the bully. What do they need to move on? Services could include use of an Employee Assistance Program or extended health benefits that cover counselling/psychological support.
  • Maintain a confidential written record of the investigation and any findings such as written complaints, responses, interview notes, evidence, findings and any report generated. This will:
    • provide helpful tracking data regarding the frequency and severity of harassment incidents,
    • assist in reviewing and revising policies and procedures, and
    • document employer’s efforts to deal with harassment incidents if the matter is ever reviewed by OHS, AHRC or a judge in a civil case


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