Union Education

The tremendous media, corporate and labour relation interests in harassment and bullying recently reflects the seriousness with which this type of conduct is now being taken by the labour and employer communities.

The devastating and costly (in every sense of the word) consequences of this poison in the workplace are starting to be generally understood.

However, we still need more awareness and more education. This is a great place to start as CUPE has many resources, educationals and professional services to assist you and your local.

Basic definitions and your rights

What is workplace harassment? Bullying? Psychological harassment? What rights do I have to fight it?

Human Rights Types of Harassment: include any harassing conduct that is based on one of the “prohibited heads of discrimination” (the forbidden categories of discrimination) listed in s.13 of our BC Human Rights Code which include: Race/colour/ancestory/place of origin, Political belief, Religion, Marital status, Family status, Physical or mental disability, Sex, Sexual orientation, Age, Unrelated criminal or summary conviction offence.

Legally, harassment is seen as a form of discrimination and therefore the legal prohibition against discrimination includes, by definition, a prohibition against harassment. The Supreme Court of Canada in the Jantzen case defined sexual harassment as "unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature, that detrimentally affects the workplace or leads to negative consequences for the victim of harassment."

That basic formula has been used to define other forms of human rights harassment as well.

Nowadays, the great majority of workplace harassment tends to be “personal” or non-human rights types of harassment.

Personal Harassment: A generally-accepted definition of personal harassment in British Columbia is articulated by arbitrator and harassment expert Joan McEwen in the Burnaby Villa Hotel case where she defined harassment as

“...objectionable conduct or comment, directed toward a specific person(s), which serves no legitimate work purpose, and has the effect of creating an intimidating, humiliating, hostile or offensive work environment.”

Psychological harassment: The term became popular when the Quebec government introduced an amendment to its Act Respecting Labour Standards that protected all workers in the province (union and non-union) from psychological harassment, which it defined as

“ ...any vexatious behavior in the form of repeated and hostile or unwanted conduct, verbal comments, actions or gestures, that affects an employee’s dignity or psychological or physical integrity and that results in a harmful work environment for the employee.”

Bullying: The word has appeared in some BC arbitration awards. A 2002 study by the University of Quebec at Montreal, reviewed the literature on the subject and concluded that bullying is used to refer to harassing type's conduct that is recurring and persistent and that produces harmful, sometimes devastating, effects on the victim.

Group harassment, known as mobbing, is a complex and dangerous workplace phenomenon that can include personal harassment, psychological harassment and / or bullying.

In other words, personal harassment is a broad term that includes both psychological harassment and bullying. The term psychological harassment appears to be reserved for the more serious types of personal harassment and the term bullying seems to be reserved for serious and repetitive forms of personal harassment where someone is being targeted for repetitious conduct, which results in serious harm to them.

Download the PDF of Examples of Conduct Considered By Arbitrators To Constitute Personal Harassment.

Courses for CUPE activists

Respect in the Workplace:  Half-day course on the basic elements of what is required to ensure a workplace is respectful, outlines employer and member responsibilities.

Worksite Harassment:  One-day course, which covers all forms of harassment, including those under the Human Rights Code as well as personal harassment.

Harassment and Bullying:  One-day course that does not deal with harassment on grounds established in the Human Rights Code, but concentrates on personal harassment, psychological harassment and bullying.

For more information, please contact CUPE Education representatives Greg Burkitt ([email protected]) or Connie Credico ([email protected]), or CUPE Equality representative Conni Kilfoil ([email protected])

Professional services for CUPE locals

There are a variety of professional services available to CUPE locals and district councils, including policy reviews and advice regarding specific harassment cases to name a few examples.

Here is a list of professional services CUPE can provide your local with:

• Facilitate worksite harassment and bullying courses, including customized courses, as per the descriptions provided in courses for CUPE activists

• Facilitate courses to joint union-management groups

• Review harassment and bullying policies on behalf of locals and district councils in cases where the employer has invited the union to have input

• Provide assistance with anti-discrimination or anti-harassment events, including providing a CUPE expert on the issue to speak in public forums, at professional development days, etc.

• Provide technical legal support at bargaining, including draft collective agreement language and contract interpretation

• Assist in the mediation of bargaining-unit member to bargaining-unit member in harassment

For more information, please contact CUPE Equality representative Conni Kilfoil at [email protected]

Conni has taught workplace harassment courses to CUPE locals, district councils both in BC and outside of BC for more than a decade. She has also taught courses to joint union-management groups in a multitude of sites around the province and teaches harassment courses part-time in the Labour Studies Program at Capilano College.