Respect in the Workplace - Sample Policy

Crescendo disclaimer: This policy is for example purposes only. It may not meet the needs of your organization due to jurisdictional or other legal framework differences. Any adoption of this policy should include a review from any relevant parties to your organization’s circumstances.

Commentary is underlined to offer context on some sections and can be deleted in the final product. All text within [square brackets] is intended to be replaced with your company name as stated within the bracket.


The sections in this sample policy are as follows:

  • Policy vision

  • Policy goals

  • Policy scope

  • Definitions

  • Roles and responsibilities

  • Commitment to re-assess the policy

  • Guiding principles for resolving complaints

  • What to do when an incident occurs

  • Complaint resolution options for employees

  • Complaint withdrawal

  • Conclusion

Policy vision

[Company] is committed to building and preserving a workplace where everyone can do their best work, based on an environment of mutual respect. As such, [Company] does not tolerate or condone acts of discrimination, violence, harassment, and/or assault by any individual, whether employee, client, visitor, third party, or otherwise.

Commentary

A policy vision helps people get a birds-eye view of what you’re trying to accomplish, making this an easier policy to judge based on reasonable action over specific lists of prohibited vs allowed actions.


Policy goals

This policy is intended to provide clarity and guidance for all people who interact with [Company], but especially employees. For those who feel their personal rights or space may have been violated, this policy offers a framework of action and escalation pathways. For those who witness acts of discrimination, violence, harassment, and/or assault, this policy offers definitions and explanations so you know what you are seeing and how you can intervene. For those accused of any misconduct, this policy dictates your rights and the pathway(s) the organization may take.


Commentary

Where the vision explains the workplace you hope to build, the goals explain what this policy does to help you achieve your vision.


Policy scope

Every employee at [Company] has a responsibility to do their part to keep our workplace healthy, safe, and respectful.

This policy applies to all activities that occur within and outside of the workplace and apply equally regardless of tenure, seniority, or positional authority. Regardless of venue or circumstance, know that you are representing [Company]. This policy applies not only to employees but to employee interactions with anyone that [Company] interacts with, such as clients, visitors, or vendors.


Definitions

We’ve provided our definitions of the following core terms so you are familiar and can reference back to them should there be any confusion or concern.

Workplace is defined as any space, physical or virtual, where [Company]’s work takes place. This includes, but may not be limited to: the office, Slack or other messaging applications, email, social media of all types (personal and business), texting, phone calls, conferences, work travel locations, social functions, seminars and conferences, or functions that you attend hosted by others on behalf of [Company].

Discrimination can occur when a worker is subjected to unwelcome conduct because of, but not limited to: race, national or ethnic origin, age, religious beliefs, colour, place of origin, gender (including pregnancy), gender expression, mental or physical disability, ancestry, marital status, sexual orientation, source of income, family status of that person or of any other person.

Workplace harassment means engaging in a course of unwelcome or offensive behaviour or conduct against a worker in a workplace that is known, or ought reasonably to be known, to be unwelcome. Harassment may take many overt or subtle forms and can involve verbal, written, visual, or physical behaviours or conduct.

Workplace sexual harassment means engaging in a course of unwelcome or offensive behaviour or conduct against a worker in a 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. It can also mean 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 worker and the person knows, or ought reasonably to know, that the solicitation or advance is unwelcome.

Violence whether at a worksite or work-related event means the threatened, attempted, or actual conduct of a person that causes, or is likely to cause, physical injury. These acts include threats, menacing or threatening behaviour, and all types of physical or verbal assaults.

Bullying is interpersonal hostility that is deliberate, repeated and sufficiently severe as to harm the targeted person’s health, safety, or economic status. It is driven by the perpetrator’s (bully’s) need to control another individual, not by a legitimate business need. Employees should note that a reasonable and lawful decision by management in relation to performance management, disciplinary action, allocation of work, or implementing organisational change does not constitute bullying.

Intent is how the person who is accused of action hoped their action would be perceived. It’s important to note that harassment, bullying, or discrimination can happen regardless of positive intent - or a lack of malintent - on behalf of the person doing the action. Complaints and resolutions are based on whether a reasonable person should have known the actions would constitute harassment, bullying, or discrimination.

Broadly, the actions defined above are referred to as “unacceptable workplace behaviour”.


Commentary
All definitions, except for “Workplace” and “Intent” come from the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Your local jurisdiction may have different legal definitions for these terms that you may be required to use in your policy.


Roles and responsibilities

All employees at [Company] have a responsibility under this policy, with slight changes depending on role or seniority:

All employees are responsible for:

-Familiarizing themselves with the policy

-Adhering to the policy

-Bringing any incident of unacceptable workplace behaviour forward - whether they were involved, a witness, or the incident was brought to their attention


All managers are responsible for:

-Familiarizing themselves with the policy

-Adhering to the policy

-Ensuring team members are familiar with, and adhere to, the policy


-Stopping any unacceptable workplace behaviour of which they are aware

-Taking appropriate preventative actions promptly and appropriately

-Ensuring all employees’ rights are respected

-Supporting employees through the conflict resolution process

-Reporting incidents of unacceptable workplace behaviour to HR


HR and [Company] is responsible for:

-Ensuring employees are not exposed to unacceptable workplace behaviour arising out of their employment

-Implementing this policy and all related processes and procedures

-Fostering a workplace free from unacceptable workplace behaviour

-Holding managers accountable for carrying out their duties in relation to this policy

-Communicating this policy to employees

-Determining if complaints made are done so in bad faith or are unfounded

-Making and implementing decisions for follow up to complete the complaint process, which may include discipline or dismissal

In all cases where an allegation made includes a criminal element, the manager or employee subject to this behaviour must be informed of their opportunity to include relevant authorities. If they opt to not go down this path, that decision should be respected unless the company has an overriding concern on the employee’s behalf.

All claims of unacceptable workplace behaviour will be investigated by HR or, in some cases, and external consultant.


Commitment to re-assess

We commit to re-assessing this policy on an annual basis to ensure that it still fits our needs or evolves alongside our organization.


Guiding principles for resolving complaints at [Company]

[Company] believes in the following guiding principles for addressing all claims and allegations of unacceptable workplace behaviour:


Communication
: All parties involved will be kept informed about timelines for resolution and any required steps they must take. Information about the investigation will only be provided to those that require access to complete the investigation, including relevant authorities.

Confidentiality: Only those involved in making or investigating a complaint will have access to information about the complaint.

Documentation: A record will be kept of all complaints, investigations, and interactions about the complaint, whether a matter was formally investigated or not. These records will be kept confidential and will not go on an employee’s record.

Free from repercussions: Management will take all necessary steps to ensure that no retaliatory actions takes place against someone for submitting a complaint in good faith. Team members are not to be penalized or disciplined for reporting an incident or for participating in an investigation involving any manner of unacceptable workplace behaviours.

Impartial approach: [Company] acts as an impartial third party in all cases. Each involved party will have the opportunity to put forward their side of the story. The respondent has a right to know all allegations made against them. No assumptions will be made and no action take until all relevant information has been collected and analyzed. Any investigators will not be involved in any way with the individuals relevant to the complaint. Any support person can only act as support to one party in the complaint.

Support for all persons: Once a complaint has been made, all employees involved should be told what support is available to them, including the person against whom allegations have been made.

Timely nature: All complaints will be addressed as quickly as possible, with respect for any processes and circumstances that may arise.


What to do when an incident occurs

If you see something, you have a responsibility to say something. Whether the incident involved you directly, whether you observed it, or whether it was brought to your attention, it is your duty to submit a report. You can submit a report verbally or in writing to the appropriate people in HR. If a concern is brought to you or you witness it, never tell the involved individual they should handle it on their own. [Company] takes all complaints and allegations seriously and will address all complaints or incidents in a timely manner while respecting the privacy for all involved.

If you are in a situation where you are the subject of harassment, bullying, violence, or discrimination, your safety is the priority before disclosing the incident to your manager or HR. All members of HR are able to help if you feel you are being treated unfairly or inappropriately at work.

When making a report or allegation, bring any proof possible to reinforce your claim. However, proof is not required to submit a report or allegation as the case will be investigated to find proof as needed.

They can help you by:

1. Explaining what options may be available to you to help resolve the matter, including any necessary escalation pathways and providing copies of relevant policies and procedure documents

2. Helping you decide how to approach the individual(s) you have a claim or allegation against

3.Explaining what constitutes unlawful harassment, discrimination, or bullying

4. Offer support to you throughout the complaint resolution process

5. Refer you to individual counselling or other resources that may be available to you through your benefits plan

Commentary
These options will need to be updated depending on what your HR team is trained to provide.


Complaint resolution options for employees

Employees have options when it comes to resolving an allegation.

Self-management is when the claimant deals directly with the respondent (the person who has said or done the offending action). If you feel safe to do so, you can politely but firmly let the respondent known their behaviour is unwelcome. Employees are encouraged to self-advocate when possible and work towards a resolution they feel comfortable addressing.

If you choose self-management, remember:

-Stay calm, polite, and respectful. This is about the facts and moving forward

-Describe the behaviour or action that impacted you plainly and using facts only

-Describe the effect the behaviour or action had on you

-Make a clear request for what you need - for example, the behavior to stop or a decision to be reviewed

-Ask for an agreement, acknowledgement, or time frame from the respondent

-Remember that many behaviours or actions are not intended to harm, so do your best to leave room for the possibility of a misunderstanding or miscommunication


[Company] recognizes that not all employees will be able to self-manage in every instance nor will every instance see an employee comfortable to advocate on their own behalf. Those situations may require greater support.


Informal support
is when the claimant asks a senior member of HR or agnostic executive (from another department, or specifically tasked with handling informal support requests) to be involved in the resolution conversation. This third person offers support with their presence if you do not feel comfortable completely self-managing and, when asked, can help informally mediate.

The goal of the informal support process is to come up with a resolution and to move forward, not to prove something actually happened. Informal approaches work best for less serious offences, when the respondent has admitted to the behaviour in question, and/or when non-disciplinary outcomes are the most appropriate.

Formal internal investigations are for when self-management or the informal approach does not resolve the issue or is not appropriate. This step is when HR conducts an investigation, which may be the best course of action from the beginning depending on the severity of the allegation.

The investigator will interview all involved parties: claimant, respondent, and any witnesses. All those interviewed will have the right to review their statement for accuracy. Upon completion of the investigation, recommendations will be provided which could include disciplinary action taken against the person if they are found to have breached policies.

Afterwards, the investigator will prepare a report including the description of the allegations, the response from the respondent, a summary of information collected by witnesses (if applicable), and a decision about whether unacceptable workplace behaviour did occur based on evidence and the recommended course(s) of action.

A formal external investigation is the step taken when external parties including law enforcement are brought in. Regardless of corporate practice and policy, the claimant has the right to bring a formal complaint to law enforcement or other employee governing bodies such as the Human Rights Commission or union, as appropriate. [Company] will cooperate with any external investigation and comply with any requests for information from relevant authorities.

Should any investigation take place, [Company] may request a person work from home, with or without pay, pending the outcome of the investigation. If a complaint is upheld, disciplinary action will be commensurate with the severity of the matter. Such measures may include suspension, a transfer, a demotion and/or dismissal, and/or further reporting the matter to relevant authorities. Both parties to the complaint will be advised, in writing, of the decision.

Commentary
This section will need to be updated to reflect what your organization can provide or is willing to do.


Complaint withdrawal

Complaint withdrawal can occur at any time by the complainant. [Company] may still choose to investigate the complaint on its own behalf if there is:
-A real or perceived threat to the health and safety of other employees
-Evidence that the complainant may have been threatened or may fear retaliation
-A situation where failure to follow through on a complaint would seriously damage the reputation of the company
-A situation where the complaint alleges serious abuse of power

Conclusion

All employees are expected to adhere to this policy. Managers, supervisors, and team leaders are expected to champion this policy’s presence and purpose. Everyone at [Company] has a role to play in ensuring we build a workplace where everyone can come and do their best work, with respect for all.

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