Procedure 36-1 - Complaints of Harassment/Discrimination initiated by students

Date effective: 2017-01-18

Authorized by: Administration Committee

COMPLAINTS OF HARASSMENT/DISCRIMINATION INITIATED BY STUDENTS

PURPOSE

1. The purpose of this Procedure is to establish a process for all complaints of harassment and/or discrimination initiated by students and is developed pursuant to the University’s Policy No. 67a on the Prevention of Harassment and/or Discrimination. This Procedure does not prevent or is not intended to discourage an individual from filing an application with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal within the deadlines set out in the Ontario Human Rights Code or an individual’s right to pursue any other external legal recourse that may be available.

APPLICABLE COLLECTIVE AGREEMENT

2. This Procedure is not meant to replace or supersede complaint or investigation processes in applicable collective agreement provisions. If there is an applicable collective agreement, the complaint will be dealt with under the relevant provisions of that collective agreement. Where there is no applicable collective agreement or no relevant provisions within a collective agreement, the complaint will be handled in accordance with this Procedure.

SUPPORT

The Human Rights Office (“HRO”)

3. If a student feels that he or she is the subject of harassment and/or discrimination, the student should contact the HRO.

4. The student will be informed of his or her right to be accompanied at any time by a person of his or her choice during the informal and formal stages outlined in this Procedure. The person may be present for support during the handling of the complaint, however, that person’s role is not to represent or to speak for a party to the complaint in communications or meetings. The person must also agree to maintain the confidentiality of information exchanged.

CONFIDENTIALITY

5. a) Confidentiality of information disclosed at any time pursuant to this Procedure, including during mediation or other efforts to resolve the matter, is maintained to the extent possible and consistent with the University’s need to respond appropriately to the situation. This means that information about the complaint is provided only to those who need to know in order to investigate and/or resolve the complaint and where appropriate, the person will be consulted before any disclosure of information is made.

b) Individuals involved in a complaint must and are expected to maintain confidentiality. Breaches of confidentiality may jeopardize the proper functioning of the processes outlined in this Procedure. If breaches of confidentiality occur, they will be followed-up and depending on the circumstances, could lead to consequences for the person responsible for the breach.

c) Information disclosed by a person during a mediation or during other complaint resolution efforts under this Procedure is without prejudice to that person and cannot be used during subsequent steps of the informal or formal complaint process under this Procedure. Any person conducting a mediation of a complaint may not be called to testify in a subsequent proceeding in relation to information disclosed during mediation, unless ordered or compelled by a court, tribunal or arbitrator.

INFORMAL PROCESS

Potential Options for Resolution

6. Once contact with the HRO has been made, a Human Rights Officer (“Officer”) will meet with the student to discuss the circumstances and the student’s expectations and outcome sought. The Officer will make every effort to assist the student and will discuss with the student possible options to address or resolve the matter, for example:
a) referral to suitable services or resources available at the University or in the community;
b) providing information to the student on how they can directly intervene in the situation on their own behalf;
c) communication with the person involved to inform that person of the alleged harassment and/or discrimination and that such conduct is unwelcome and must cease
d) mediation;
e) filing a formal complaint.

Mediation

7. Depending on the nature of and circumstances surrounding the matter, the Officer may facilitate an informal resolution with mutual participation of those involved by mediation. Mediation is voluntary. The parties may refuse to participate in mediation or if the parties agree to participate, they will so indicate by written agreement and either may discontinue the mediation at any time. The decision not to participate in mediation or to discontinue mediation will not be held against a party.

FORMAL COMPLAINT PROCESS

8. The Officer will inform the student on the process for filing a formal complaint.

Timing for filing and content of complaint

9. A formal complaint must be filed with the Officer within 12 months of the last incident of the harassment and/or discrimination. A student who believes to be the subject of harassment and/or discrimination (the “Complainant”) may file a formal complaint with the Officer by setting out in writing the name of the individual against whom the complaint is made (the “Respondent”). The complaint must also set out the nature and the extent of the allegations of harassment and/or discrimination, for example, detailed facts, specific dates and names of potential witnesses.

10. The Officer will acknowledge receipt of the complaint, review it and if necessary, seek clarification from the Complainant on the information contained in the complaint. The Officer then sends a copy of the formal complaint and of any other information obtained from the Complainant to the Respondent. The Officer will inform the Appropriate Authority of the receipt of a formal complaint (see paragraph 18 of this Procedure to determine the relevant Appropriate Authority).

Response

11. The Respondent is asked to respond in writing to the formal complaint within 10 working days from the date the formal complaint was sent to the Respondent. If the Respondent does not provide a written response, the complaint will proceed to investigation in the absence a response.

Respondent employee

12.  If the Respondent is an employee, the Officer will inform him or her of any union representation right that may apply or if not a unionized employee, of his or her right to be accompanied at any time by a person of his or her choice.

Officer’s Assessment

13. Once the complaint and response, if any, have been received, the Officer assesses whether the complaint:
a) requires no further action because the complaint,
     i) is withdrawn or has been resolved,
     ii) is outside the scope of harassment and/or discrimination, or
b) could benefit from mediation with mutual participation of the Complainant and the Respondent, if they so choose; or
c) requires investigation.

14. The Complainant and the Respondent are informed in writing of the Officer’s assessment of the complaint and of the review process when available under paragraph 16 of this Procedure. If the complaint requires no further action, the Officer closes the file.

Review of the Officer’s assessment

15. A request to review the Officer’s assessment of the complaint is only available if the Officer has assessed that the complaint is beyond the scope of harassment and/or discrimination.

16. If the Complainant disagrees with the Officer’s assessment that the complaint is beyond the scope of harassment and/or discrimination, then he or she may ask the Director of the Human Rights Office (“Director”) to review the Officer’s assessment provided the Complainant submits the request in writing and within 30 days of the date of the Officer’s assessment. Upon review, the Director’s decision is final and will be communicated to the Complainant and the Respondent in writing.

Mediation

17. While the Officer may assess that the complaint could benefit from mediation, either the Complainant or the Respondent may refuse to participate in mediation. If the parties agree to participate, they will so indicate by written agreement setting out on what terms the mediation will take place. Either the Complainant or the Respondent may discontinue the mediation at any time. The decision not to participate in mediation or to discontinue mediation will not be held against either party and the complaint will proceed to investigation.

Investigation

18. If the complaint requires investigation, the Officer, with the assistance of the Complainant and the Respondent, prepares a list of witnesses. The Officer communicates with each witness in order to obtain a witness statement, verbal or written, and when written, signed by the witness. The Officer sends the Complaint, the Response, if any, witness statements along with any other supporting documentation to a person in a position of authority over the Respondent (the “Appropriate Authority”) for investigation. For the purposes of this Procedure, the “Appropriate Authority” is as identified in the applicable collective agreement governing the Respondent’s employment where the complaint arises from the Respondent’s employment as a unionized employee or as set out in the table below: 

Where Respondent is:

Appropriate Authority means:

Undergraduate student or special student

Dean of Respondent’s Faculty

Graduate student or postdoctoral fellow

Dean of Respondent’s Faculty

Professor (full-time or part-time)

Dean of Respondent’s Faculty

Clinical faculty member

Dean of the Faculty of Medicine

Dean, University Librarian

Vice-President Academic and Provost

Librarian

University Librarian

Medical resident

Dean of Faculty of Medicine

Support staff

Individual to whom the Respondent directly reports (either his/her Director, Associate Vice-President, Vice-Provost or Vice-President)

Vice-President

President

President

Chair of the Board of Governors

Contractor, visitor, volunteer

University employee in a position of authority over the Respondent

Investigation pursuant to applicable collective agreement

19. Where the Respondent is a unionized employee, the investigation proceeds in accordance with the applicable collective agreement. In absence of an investigation process under an applicable collective agreement or where no collective agreement applies, the investigation proceeds under this Procedure.

Investigation by external investigator or Appropriate Authority

20. The Appropriate Authority will determine whether the investigation will be conducted by him or her or whether the situation warrants an external investigator. If the investigation is conducted by the Appropriate Authority, he or she may delegate certain tasks to a person in order to facilitate an efficient investigation. The Appropriate Authority will keep the Complainant, the Respondent informed on the status of the complaint and of the investigation.

FINDINGS AND OUTCOME OF THE COMPLAINT

Draft investigation report

21. Upon completion of the investigation, the Appropriate Authority or external investigator, will send to the Complainant and the Respondent, a written confidential draft report containing findings of fact and his or her determination that the complaint is substantiated or not, or a determination that the investigation is inconclusive. The Complainant and the Respondent may send written comments to the Appropriate Authority or external investigator within 10 working days of the date of the report.

Final investigation report

22. If the complaint has not been resolved or withdrawn and after the period during which the Complainant and the Respondent may provide comments on the draft report, the report is finalized and a copy of the final confidential report is sent to the Complainant and the Respondent. If the investigation was conducted by an external investigator, the investigator also sends a copy of the final report to the Appropriate Authority.

Outcome

23. Based on the findings and determinations contained in the final report, the Appropriate Authority,
a) decides or recommends on the imposition of any measures necessary and appropriate in the circumstances; and
b) follows-up to determine if the measures imposed are effective in preventing the reoccurrence of the harassment and/or discrimination.

24. Consequences resulting from harassment and/or discrimination will depend on circumstances, on the seriousness of the conduct, on any mitigating factors and on applicable collective agreements or other University policy. If a complaint is substantiated, consideration must be given to prevent the harassment and/or discrimination from recurring in the future, to correct the negative impact of the incident on the complainant and discipline the Respondent. The following list provides examples of consequences/remedial measures and is not meant to be exhaustive nor necessarily represents a progression of sanctions or measures:
a) A letter of apology,
b) Attendance at educational sessions on harassment and/or discrimination,
c) Attendance at coaching sessions to improve communication or conflict resolution skills,
d) Prohibited or restricted access to University campuses,
e) Disciplinary measures such as reprimand, suspension, dismissal, expulsion.

25. The imposition of sanctions and measures will take effect immediately unless the report and/or sanctions require the approval or decision of the Administrative Committee or other governing authorities at the University. Communication of the outcome

Communication of the outcome

26. The Appropriate Authority will inform the Complainant and the Respondent in writing of the outcome of the complaint and information related to sanctions or other outcome may be disclosed subject to applicable collective agreement provisions, other University policy and access to information and privacy legislation.

SYSTEMIC DISCRIMINATION IN RELATION TO STUDENTS

27. The informal and formal processes set out in this Procedure shall apply, with necessary modifications, to the treatment of an allegation of systemic discrimination. The Vice-President Academic and Provost shall act as the Appropriate Authority.

OTHER RECOURSE

28. After exhausting the complaint process under this Policy and any other complaint process available at the University, the Complainant or Respondent may seek the assistance of the University Ombudsperson.

INTERIM MEASURES

29. Arrangements may be made at any time during the handling of a complaint and where appropriate in the circumstances so that the Complainant and the Respondent are separated or that communications between the two cease or are reduced, in order to stabilize the situation, in the interim, pending the outcome of the complaint.

DEADLINES AND TIMELINES

30. The deadlines mentioned in this Policy for the filing of a response, reply and sending of a report are meant to ensure that a complaint is dealt with in a timely fashion. There may be, in exceptional and compelling circumstances, reasons to extend a deadline. In such a case, the Director may extend a deadline where the delay is incurred in good faith and the extension does not prejudice or harm those involved in the complaint.

31. It can be impossible to determine appropriate time lines for the resolution, investigation or final decision with respect to a complaint. Therefore, where no deadlines are mentioned in this Policy, the intention is to use a reasonable period time period and to act as expeditiously as possible in light of the nature and complexity of the circumstances of the complaint and in light of other circumstances that may arise during the complaint process that are beyond a party’s reasonable control.

REVIEW AND IMPLEMENTATION

32. The HRO is responsible for the review and implementation of this Procedure.

AMENDMENT

33. No amendment may be made to this Procedure without the approval of the Administrative Committee. A copy of this Procedure as amended and approved will be posted on the University’s website and sent for information to the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO), the SFUO Student Appeals Centre, the SFUO Centre for Equity and Human Rights and the Graduate Students Association (GSAED).

Revised:  January 18, 2017

(Human Rights Office)

 

Back to top