01:07pm Wednesday 16 October 2019

Dealing with harassment

Concordia’s policy on harassment, sexual harassment and psychological harassment exists to help ensure Concordia’s students, staff and faculty members are protected from such behaviour, and understand the procedures for dealing with harassment if and when it does occur.

Harassment, as defined by Concordia’s Code of Rights and Responsibilities, constitutes unwelcome, vexatious conduct that could come in the form of sexual harassment, psychological harassment or harassment that breaks laws governing someone’s rights to work in a safe and supportive environment.

“Psychological harassment really can affect a member’s dignity,” explains Concordia’s Rights and Responsibilities Advisor Louise Shiller. “It affects their psychological or physical integrity.  All forms of harassment can interfere with a person’s right to pursue their work or study. Basically, it creates an intimidating or hostile environment.”

Concordia’s harassment policy states that prevention is the best tool for eliminating such behaviour. The policy encourages all members of the university community to familiarize themselves with the definitions of harassment, and to “take all necessary steps to prevent that conduct from occurring.”

According to Shiller, the appropriate response to harassment once it occurs is to get it out in the open. The policy encourages individuals to tell the person responsible to stop the offending behaviour. If this is impossible or ineffective, then the behaviour should be reported to a supervisor or manager, or the Offfice of Rights and Responsibilities.

“I’ll give my opinion on what I think the situation looks like, and inform the person of their options,” Shiller says. “Obviously we like to try and resolve things informally if we can.”

Often it’s enough to bring someone’s actions to their attention, for the harassment to stop. “A lot of times people aren’t aware they’re creating a hostile environment,” Shiller says. “Sometimes we have supervisors or managers who are new to the position, and may need some tips on how to properly manage other people.”

In some situations legitimate use of management authority may be unpleasant, but it may not constitute harassment.

Sometimes, however, more decisive action has to be taken, such as mediation between two parties, or a formal complaint, followed by an investigation. If an investigation proves a charge of harassment to be founded, then sanctions may be taken against the individual responsible.

“The same principles apply with any infraction under the Code of Rights and Responsibilities,” Shiller says. “These are the principles of fairness and natural justice. If we do proceed to a formal process, we have to ensure all sides are heard equally.”

It’s important to also remember that harassment is not always a case of someone in a position of power abusing that power. “It could be between two colleagues, it could be between two supervisors,” Shiller says. “I’ve had students come to me and tell me they’ve felt harassed. It could pretty much be any combination.”

Concordia’s harassment policy, together with the Code of Rights and Responsibilities, is an effort to ensure actions that amount to harassment are not swept under the rug. The definitions of harassment are clear, the methods for dealing with it are laid out, and it is the responsibility of every individual to report harassment so it can be dealt with as soon as possible.

“The code is not punitive in nature, and neither is this policy,” Shiller insists. “They exist to promote respect and to promote a healthy working environment. Ultimately, that’s what you’re looking for.”

Related links:

•  Harassment policy
•  “Code Sets Standards of Conduct” – NOW, October 5, 2011

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