Harassment Committee

CRA Preventing and Resolving Harassment Guidelines

UTE has adopted a policy that we no longer support filing a complaint under the CRA Harassment Policy.  Instead, we recommend advising members to file a complaint under the Violence in the Workplace procedure pursuant to Part XX under the Canada Labour Code (CLC) regulations.  Additionally, we recommend the filing of a concurrent grievance.  Further information may be obtained by reviewing Bulletin 07/15.


  1. Preventing harassment
  2. Identifying harassment
  3. Resolving harassment
    1. Resolving a situation promptly, fairly, and co-operatively
    2. Filing a complaint
    3. Acknowledging a complaint
    4. Reviewing and assessing a complaint (acceptance criteria)
    5. Advising the complainant(s) and respondent(s)
    6. Investigating a complaint
    7. Resolving a complaint

A. Preventing harassment

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) is committed to preventing harassment and valuing individuals’ rights:

  • to be treated with respect and dignity;
  • to be informed and have access to the Preventing and Resolving Harassment Policy, and the related guidelines;
  • to come forward in good faith to express a harassment concern, without fear of reprisal; and
  • to have access to a fair resolution process.

Every employee is responsible for contributing to a harassment-free work environment. To achieve this goal, it is important that employees and managers share a common understanding of appropriate and expected workplace behaviour:

  • being familiar with the policy, as well as the rights and obligations arising from it;
  • behaving ethically and treating others politely and respectfully, as well as making sure that interactions with individuals are in accordance with the CRA values of integrity, professionalism, respect, and co-operation, and in compliance with the CRA Code of Ethics and Conduct;
  • taking care to ensure that what is done and said does not embarrass, insult, or offend anyone, recognizing that fellow employees may be from different cultures, religions, sexual orientation, and beliefs (that is to say, what is considered harmless by one person may be considered offensive by another);
  • maintaining communication to deal effectively and harmoniously with fellow employees, managers, and supervisors;
  • making unease/disapproval about a person’s actions known promptly to the offending employee if you, or someone else, is not being treated with respect;
  • offering an apology, and changing or stopping a behaviour if someone seems to have been offended; and
  • consulting with an advisor such as a conflict resolution advisor, a union representative (for represented employees), or an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) practitioner to resolve situations that could potentially lead to harassment.

Managers are expected to lead by example, to create a respectful work environment, and to resolve conflict and prevent harassment by:

  • dealing with perceived problems immediately before they escalate by, for example, counselling employees to avoid inappropriate humour, assessing employees’ management and communication styles, and by helping them to develop skills to avoid harassing or discriminatory behaviour;
  • helping employees, through active listening, to clarify and understand each other’s concerns, supporting employees who speak up when they or others are not being treated with respect, and protecting employees from any kind of retaliation;
  • encouraging the use of conflict resolution and EAP services;
  • maintaining and, if necessary, restoring a respectful work environment that is conducive to frank communication and the realization of employees’ full potential;
  • making sure that workplace assessments or interventions are undertaken when warranted; and
  • monitoring the workplace after corrective measures are taken to ensure that the CRA values are respected, as well as monitoring and addressing any other problematic situations that may arise.

B. Identifying harassment

Situations need judgement to identify when they are legitimate and when they become inappropriate and need to be addressed. It is therefore important to consider the severity, impropriety, circumstances, and context of each situation. Some questions that can help assess whether behaviour may constitute harassment are:

  • Is the behaviour unwelcome or offensive?
  • Would a reasonable person view the conduct as unwelcome or offensive?
  • Did it demean, belittle, or cause personal humiliation or embarrassment?
  • Did it detrimentally affect the work environment or individual well-being?
  • Is it a single serious incident?
  • Is it a series of incidents over a period of time?

The following table of examples, though not an exhaustive list, also provides some guidance.

What does not constitute harassment...

but can constitute harassment when...

The proper exercise of managerial responsibility such as: allocating work, evaluating performance or requiring performance-to-job standards, applying appropriate corrective measures, addressing work practices, requiring adherence to established dress code, and following up on work absences.

... the manager displays offensive or discriminatory manners, is humiliating or causing harm to an individual, or uses threats, intimidation, or retaliation against an employee.

The employer’s efforts to provide reasonable accommodation to an employee, for example an illness or injury. This may include asking for a medical assessment, following up on an employee’s condition, and authorizing appropriate leave.

... there are repeated derogatory comments or attacks made, or the individual is treated adversely through an accommodation process, for example an illness or injury.

A single or isolated incident that does not recur after an individual, or a group, is made aware that the behaviour was unwelcome or considered offensive.

... there are repeated offensive incidents that persist after the individual(s) is made aware that behaviour was considered unwelcome or offensive.

Giving public feedback, as an individual or a group, to an employee about such things as a presentation or a project.

... the remarks are carried out in a rude and degrading or offensive manner, and are humiliating or cause harm to the employee.

A social or romantic relationship welcomed by both individuals.

... an individual is displaying unwelcome sexual attention, contact, or comment, or sexual innuendos or gestures. Or, one employee changes his/her mind, and the other employee persists inappropriately.

Two or more employees joking and bantering back and forth, or getting into an disagreement or a democratic debate over ideas.

... an individual, or a group, uses abusive language towards an employee, or isolates him/her by such things as uttering racial slurs, put downs, insults, or demeaning jokes.

C. Resolving harassment

1. Resolving a situation promptly, fairly, and co-operatively

The CRA recognizes that harassment can severely damage the work environment. In such instances, the goal is to resolve the issue as quickly as possible and to re-establish positive working relationships. When an employee believes that he/she is experiencing or witnessing a harassing situation, the employee is expected to:

  • promptly and properly make his/her unease/disapproval about a person’s actions known to the alleged offender, to allow him/her to give an explanation or apology, or to otherwise make amends, and to try to resolve the issue co-operatively; or
  • inform or get advice from a manager, or an advisor such as a conflict resolution advisor, an EAP practitioner, or a union representative (for represented employees), to help address the situation and keep a positive working relationship; and
  • use the informal conflict resolution techniques that can, in many instances, help to resolve a situation and prevent it from escalating to the point where filing a written complaint is necessary.

The Finance and Administration Manual – Security Volume, Chapter 26, “Abuse, Threats, Stalking And Assaults Against Employees,” describes the responsibilities of employees and managers to report and deal with the alleged harassment of CRA employees by non-employees/clients at the CRA’s or a client’s workplace. Managers are also to ensure that the harassment concerns of other persons in the work environment who cannot access this complaint process are addressed (for example, contractors and suppliers).

2. Filing a complaint

If parties cannot resolve a harassment situation co-operatively, the employee can file a written complaint with the delegated manager, using the harassment complaint form.

The written complaint must:

  • be filed as soon as possible, and no later than one year, after the date of the last incident, unless it has been determined that the complainant could not do so because of a special circumstance; and
  • describe or outline the allegation(s) that justify the complaint by:
    • identifying the respondent(s);
    • providing the names of any witnesses; and
    • describing what the respondent(s) said or did that led to the harassment complaint, and providing the date(s) of incident(s).

Protection of privacy - All employees who are aware of a harassment complaint, or are involved in its resolution, must refrain from discussing the complaint among themselves or with anyone who does not need to know. Every effort must be made to preserve the privacy of the parties to the complaint. An employee who breaches the privacy of any individual involved in the complaint process may be subject to disciplinary measures.

All information and documentation related to a harassment complaint (for example, allegations, drafts, and final reports) are subject to the requirements of the Privacy Act and the Access to information Act. Parties have the right to be heard, to be provided with details of the allegation, and to have a reasonable opportunity to respond. Therefore, this will also be taken into consideration by the advisor vetting the documents. All documentation concerning a complaint (including electronic records) should be kept and transmitted under “confidential/protected” cover.

3. Acknowledging a complaint

The delegated manager must acknowledge receipt of a complaint in writing within 10 working days of its receipt, and is responsible for co-ordinating the process. The delegated manager will verify the address and language preference for correspondence and provide the complainant(s) with:

  • the name of his/her contact person, and how to contact that person;
  • a copy of the CRA’s policy and guidelines on preventing and resolving harassment;
  • a statement on the disclosure of information to the other parties, subject to the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act;
  • a reminder about the importance of confidentiality and the protection of privacy; and
  • a request for more information, if required.

4. Reviewing and assessing a complaint (acceptance criteria)

After all pertinent information has been received, the delegated manager will determine whether or not to accept a complaint (to proceed with all or some of the allegations, or not to proceed). The decision will be based on the written information provided by the complainant(s), and any other additional information relating to the facts and circumstances, obtained on behalf of the delegated manager, from the complainant(s).

The delegated manager will accept the complaint if:

  • it is filed no later than one year after the date of the last incident, unless it has been determined that the complainant could not do so because of a special circumstance (to be noted in the complaint);
  • it describes or outlines the allegation(s) by:
    • identifying the respondent(s);
    • providing the names of any witnesses;
    • describing what the respondent(s) said or did that led to the harassment complaint and providing date(s) of incident(s); and
  • the description of the allegation(s) falls within the definition of harassment and, at first appearance, justifies the complaint.

If the allegation does not meet the acceptance criteria, the delegated manager will,  within 10 working days after the acknowledgement of the complaint, inform the complainant(s) in writing of the decision and the reasons for non-acceptance, and suggest other means of resolving the issue if applicable, or redirect the complainant(s) to the appropriate avenue of redress.

5. Advising the complainant(s) and respondent(s)

After a complaint is accepted, the delegated manager will, within 10 working days after the acknowledgement of the complaint, advise the complainant(s) and the respondent(s) in writing. The delegated manager will:

  • inform the respondent(s) of the complaint, identify the complainant(s), and describe the allegation(s); and
  • provide his/her contact information to the respondent(s), together with the following:
    • the name of his/her contact person, and how to contact that person;
    • a copy of the CRA’s policy and guidelines on preventing and resolving harassment;
    • a statement on the disclosure of information to the other parties, subject to the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act;
    • a reminder about the importance of confidentiality and the protection of privacy; and
    • a request for a response in writing to the allegation(s), if appropriate.

Conflict resolution: Prior to investigating a complaint, the delegated manager must be satisfied that every reasonable effort was made to resolve the matter at the earliest possible stage, unless it was considered not reasonable to do so. If an informal conflict resolution initiative (for example, mediation) is undertaken at any step during the process, the investigation will be suspended and will be resumed only if the conflict resolution process is not successful. The parties involved in the informal conflict resolution process have the responsibility to advise the delegated manager whether or not the issue has been resolved.

6. Investigating a complaint

Once the complaint is accepted and the parties have been notified, the delegated manager will be proactive, promptly launch an investigation, and keep the complainant(s) and respondent(s) informed of the investigation’s progress. All parties have the responsibility to participate in the process. In the absence of complete co-operation by any of the parties, the delegated manager may advise the parties that the process will continue and that a determination will be based on the facts available. When deemed necessary, the delegated manager may consider separating the parties during the process.

Note: When a grievance on substantially the same matter is filed, the delegated manager (ML1) will ensure that only one resolution process, the one provided in these guidelines, is followed to resolve the harassing situation.

Investigation

Based on the facts available, and the nature and the complexity of the complaint, the delegated manager will determine what scope of investigation is required, and who will conduct the investigation.

The delegated manager, or his/her delegate, ensures that:

  • the investigation will be independent of any previous conflict resolution process;
  • the investigator will follow the mandate assigned to him/her by the delegated manager, and the Manager’s Guide to Conducting Internal Investigations;
  • the investigator selected:
    • must not have a supervisory relationship with the parties or be in any other possible conflict of interest situation;
    • will interview the complainant(s), respondent(s) and witness(es) and, in doing so, will respect their right to be accompanied by an observer of their choosing. The observer can be anyone. The role of the observer is to accompany the individuals during the interviews and to provide support and advice. The observer is not a party to the process and cannot speak on behalf of the individuals;
    • will provide the complainant(s) and respondent(s), at the end of the investigation, with a copy of the draft report consisting of the facts, for their review. Parties will be given 10 working days to identify and report any errors or omissions. If applicable, the investigator will then incorporate any appropriate amendments into the report, and the complainant(s) and the respondent(s) will be given a similar opportunity to review the amended report; and
    • will write a final investigation report including the facts and an analysis that will allow the delegated manager to make an informed decision on the matter.

7. Resolving a complaint

The delegated manager will:

  • review the final report, and:
    • determine whether or not harassment occurred;
    • consider other work-related issues identified in the harassment investigation report that may need to be addressed; and
    • decide what measures may need to be taken to ensure a workplace free from harassment. This may include, but is not limited to the following: formal apology, coaching, training, separation of the parties, suspension, or termination of employment. The delegated manager will be diligent in making sure that all necessary measures have been taken;
  • provide the parties with a copy of the final report and the delegated manager’s decision, and inform them that they have the right to seek a review of the decision through the grievance process. If applicable, the complainant(s) will be notified whether measures will be taken; and
  • ensure that all necessary actions have been taken to re-establish a respectful work environment and to monitor the workplace to ensure the problem is resolved - whether or not the harassment complaint was founded.