FILING A FORMAL COMPLAINT
If you think you’ve been a victim of discrimination or harassment, you can file a formal complaint with the Human Rights Office. The Office handles all complaints of harassment and discrimination fairly and equitably in a reasonable timeframe in keeping with the applicable University of Ottawa policies and procedures:
Policy 67a – Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination is about finding and eradicating harassment and/or discrimination.
Applicable collective agreements
The applicable collective agreements for the different employee groups at the University contain various provisions related to harassment and discrimination. Policy 67a does not replace, limit or supersede any of these provisions.
All complaints of harassment and discrimination are confidential.
Deadline for filing a complaint
A formal complaint must be submitted in writing to a discrimination and harassment prevention officer within 12 months of the last incident of harassment or discrimination. This deadline may be extended only in exceptional and compelling circumstances.
An interim decision may be rendered before, during or after a complaint is assessed if circumstances warrant such an action. The decision may stipulate the complainant and respondent are to work in separate locations, for example, or serve to reduce or eliminate interactions between the parties.
Filing the complaint
The complaint must set out the name of the person against whom the complaint is being made (respondent) and the extent and frequency of the alleged harassment or discrimination. It can include, for example, a detailed description of the alleged acts of harassment or discrimination, specific dates of the acts and names of possible witnesses.
The officer acknowledges receipt of the complaint, reviews it and, if necessary, seeks clarification from the complainant on information contained in the complaint. The officer sends a copy of the formal complaint to the respondent, along with any other information received from the complainant.
The respondent is asked to respond to the complaint in writing within 10 working days of the date the formal complaint was sent to the respondent. If the respondent does not provide a written response, an investigation will nonetheless be initiated.
Reply to the response
The complainant is asked to respond only to any new elements contained in the respondent’s response and to do so within 10 working days of the date the response was sent to the complainant. If the complainant does not provide a written response, an investigation will nonetheless be initiated.
After receiving the complaint, the respondent’s response and, if applicable, the complainant’s reply to the response, the officer determines whether:
- an investigation is warranted,
- the actions fall outside the definition of harassment or discrimination or
- it would be best to attempt a resolution through mediation, provided the parties agree.
The complainant and respondent are informed in writing of the results of the officer’s assessment.
Review of the officer’s assessment
A review of the officer’s assessment can be requested only if the officer has determined that the allegations in the complaint fall outside the definition of harassment or discrimination.
To request a review, the complainant must send a request in writing to the Director of the Human Rights Office within 30 days of the date of the assessment.
The decision of Director of the Human Rights Office is final and will be communicated in writing to the complainant and the respondent.
If the decision is made to conduct an investigation, the officer, with the assistance of the complainant and the respondent, prepares a list of witnesses. The officer contacts all witnesses to obtain their written or verbal statement.
If the situation warrants, the investigation may be conducted by an outside investigator.
Sanctions or other measures imposed to put an end to the harassment or discrimination are determined based on the facts, the seriousness of the conduct, any mitigating factors and the provisions of applicable collective agreements and policies. If a complaint is substantiated, consideration must be given to preventing the harassment or discrimination from occurring again in the future, to correcting the negative impact of the incident on the complainant and to disciplining the respondent.
Below are examples of possible sanctions and remedial measures:
- A letter of apology.
- Participation in educational sessions on harassment and discrimination.
- Participation in coaching sessions to improve communication or conflict resolution skills.
- Prohibited or restricted access to the University’s campuses.
- Disciplinary measures, such as reprimand, suspension, dismissal or expulsion.
Complainants can file an application with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario under the Human Rights Code or initiate civil or criminal legal proceedings. In these cases, the complaint filed with the University’s Human Rights Office is suspended until the matter has been dealt with via the other avenues.