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Lynne Williams

Safety and Respect: A Look at Editors Canada’s Workplace Harassment Policy

Illustrations of multiple arms holding up signs with words and symbols representing "no" and "stop."
Illustrations of multiple arms holding up signs with words and symbols representing "no" and "stop."
Copyright: macrovectorart

In March, the Canadian Labour Congress released findings from a national survey on workplace harassment. It was the first of its kind in Canada and revealed that 7 in 10 workers have experienced some form of harassment at work. The study’s researchers also found an increase in online harassment since the start of the pandemic, as well as a lack of responses from workers who have less secure jobs.

It may be helpful to know that in 2018, amidst growing social awareness of and demand for safe and respectful workplaces, Editors Canada implemented a Workplace Harassment Policy and accompanying procedures. John Yip-Chuck, the executive director at the time, developed the documentation in consultation with provincial and federal legislation and members of the national executive council (NEC).

The documentation was also reviewed by a human resource editor with expertise in standard HR practices for reporting and resolving conflicts and what stands up to scrutiny when a complaint is filed.

“No specific incident triggered it,” explains Gael Spivak, who was president of the NEC in 2018. “It was time that we had one. It had been on my mind from taking harassment training at my workplace, plus following discussions of such policies in various online communities and in the news.”

What does Editors Canada’s Workplace Harassment Policy cover?

The association’s Workplace Harassment Policy and procedures cover all work activities related to the organization. The policy defines work as any activity (paid or volunteer) sanctioned by Editors Canada, such as meetings, seminars or other gatherings and events.

The Workplace Harassment Policy and procedures apply equally to any individual or organization engaged by Editors Canada, including staff, members, contractors, volunteers, non-members and the public. The documentation provides a complete list of who it covers and definitions of key terms.

This documentation sets a critical standard that helps everyone involved with Editors Canada create a respectful and safe work environment and provides a comprehensive process for what to do when inappropriate conduct breaches that standard.

According to the policy, “workplace harassment” is broadly defined as improper conduct by an individual that is directed at and offensive to another individual in the workplace, including at any event or location related to work, and that the individual knew or ought reasonably to have known would cause offence or harm.

The documentation developed by Editors Canada describes in detail what behaviour may be considered harassment. Examples include rude and offensive remarks, intimidating gestures and unwanted advances. The policy also outlines the specific criteria that must be met for an incident to be considered harassment and provides clear steps to take when a complaint is submitted.

As Gael explains, the criteria described in the procedure document are objective, clear and tied to Canadian legislation. Incidents must be specific.

“I am very aware that a policy or procedure has to be practical, fair and enforceable to be truly useful,” she explains. “By focusing on the criteria, the procedures remain objective and fair.”

What doesn’t the policy cover?

The policy and procedures do not cover incidents that occur outside of specific Editors Canada activities, such as in a member’s workplace or in their work with freelance clients.

One of the goals of the Workplace Harassment Policy is to ensure an objective and appropriate investigation of all complaints. While complaints may range in complexity and timeliness of resolution, the information provided about any incident is kept strictly confidential by those investigating and only shared when needed for the investigation or as required by law.

“Having governance documents in place before a situation arises protects everyone involved in a dispute,” explains Gael. “It gives people information if they want to file a complaint, and it gives instructions to those charged with investigating those complaints. That way, the people who address the conflict have the guidance already and can focus on resolving the issue.”

“It’s also important to not make up policies and procedures as you go because that can compromise objective decision-making and can be damaging to an organization’s integrity,” Gael adds.

What can you do if you experience harassment?

If you have experienced any form of harassment while working or volunteering for Editors Canada, or you want more information, read the Workplace Harassment Policy and procedures on the policies page of the Editors Canada website.

Members can also suggest changes to this or any Editors Canada policy at any time. Send any comments or suggestions directly to the president of the NEC: president@editors.ca.

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The Editors’ Weekly is the official blog of Editors Canada. Contact us.


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