January 7, 2004by Israel Foulon LLP
Question: We are an employer with both unionized and non-unionized employees and we are in the process of instituting a workplace harassment policy for all our employees. What impact, if any, will the collective agreement of our unionized employees have on the workplace harassment policy?
Answer: If your employees are unionized the applicable collective agreement may contain clauses that deal with harassment. Employers should be aware of and familiar with such clauses. If the collective agreement contains an anti-harassment clause, the employee will be entitled to file a grievance against her employer or another union member. If the collective agreement does not have an anti-harassment clause, the employee will be unable to file a grievance based on harassment alone. Alternatively the unionized employee may be able to challenge any discipline or firing if the harassor has abused his authority in order to make things difficult for the employee. The unionized employee may also be able to grieve the harassor’s behaviour if it qualifies as workplace misconduct or if it violates any other sections of the collective agreement.
In the event the union fails to respond to the employee’s allegations of harassment, the employee may still make a complaint under the applicable human rights legislation. But it is possible the human rights commission may decide not to deal with such a complaint if the subject matter of the complaint is covered under the collective agreement.
Peter Israel is the senior partner in the Toronto law firm of Israel Foulon LLP – Employment and Labour Lawyers. He can be reached at 416-640-1550 or firstname.lastname@example.org. A version of this article originally appeared in the Carswell publication, Canadian Employment Law Today