Harassment & Violence in the Workplace: "Staff Safety and Security Seminar"
On Wednesday, March 28th, The Board of Directors hosted a “Staff Safety and Security Seminar” to communicate with staff how to deal with harassment in the workplace, and what their available tools and options are.
Hosting the seminar was Andreea Birloncea (President) on behalf of the Board of Directors, who was joined by Deborah Howden (our Corporation Solicitor from Shibley Righton), Police Constable Kevin Dearden, and two members from The Health Institute (who discussed self-defense tactics). In attendance was Property Management (the Property Manager and Assistant Property Manager), Security Guards (guards and an executive), the Cleaning staff (including an executive), and direct Corporation employees such as the Superintendents.
We’d like to thank those who attended, as the event was not mandatory but strongly recommended. Our staff diligently devoted their personal time to be present at this event, and their participation was extremely appreciated.
Photo (from left to right): Deborah Howden (Partner, Shibley Righton),
Andreea Birloncea (President, Board of Directors),
Kevin Dearden (Toronto Police, Constable).
***A link for the download of the meeting minutes is available at the bottom of this post.***
“0 Tolerance” Policy for Harassment
It is truly unfortunate that such a seminar was required, as The Board has -for years now- maintained a strict “0 Tolerance” policy for harassment, which we have made a priority to consistently uphold. However, our staff routinely deals with residents who swear at them, threaten them with bodily harm and/or death, and have damaged the property during such outbursts. Police officers and lawyers have been involved numerous times in the past due to the seriousness of the situations.
Because the Corporation has an obligation to protect our workers- whether contracted or direct Corporation employees- we must come up with solutions when such harmful incidents arise. Part of this procedure includes writing memos to file following harassment and/or violence in the workplace, which includes a section where we must identify what we have done to prevent such incidents from recurring in the future.
The types of aggressive behaviour that our staff has had to deal with thus far is not fair, not welcome, and completely inappropriate.
At this seminar, Deborah Howden defined Harassment as “engaging in a course of vexatious comment of conduct against a worker in a workplace that is known or ought to reasonably known to be unwelcome”. The Occupational Health and Safety Act (Bill 168, Bill 132), states that “intention does not matter”. Furthermore, “Harassment involves inappropriate words or actions that are known (or should be known) to be offensive, embarrassing, humiliating, demeaning or intimidating”.
Deborah taught our employees how to recognize violence and harassment, and what the proper procedures and requirements are for reporting such incidents.
What is Workplace Violence?
Workplace violence was defined as:
“The exercise of physical force by a person against a worker, in a workplace, that causes or could cause physical injury to the worker
An attempt to exercise physical force against a worker, in a workplace, that could cause physical injury to the worker; or
A statement or behaviour that is reasonable for a worker to interpret as a threat to exercise physical force against the worker, in a workplace, that could cause physical injury to the worker”.
“The key to the definition of violence under the Act is the use or threat of physical force”.
Behaviours including (but not limited to) verbal threats of attack, throwing objects, or shaking a fist in a worker’s face constitute workplace violence.
The Corporation has instructed workers that in any situation that is urgent or life threatening, they are to call 911 immediately. During such situations, workers are to avoid intervening, and to remove themselves from dangerous situations to a safe environment. This procedure was confirmed by Deborah, who provided the same instructions at the seminar. Following violent/harassing situations, employees must file a complaint with Property Management and/or The Board of Directors.
What Does the Criminal Code Say About Harassment?
Later in the evening, Toronto Police Constable Kevin Dearden discussed the Criminal Code, which states that “264 (1) No person shall, without lawful authority and knowing that another person is harassed or recklessly as to whether the other person is harassed, engage in conduct referred to in subsection (2) that causes that other person reasonably, in all circumstances, to fear for their safety or the safety of anyone known to them.”
Officer Dearden identified that the following actions can constitute Criminal Harassment:
“Repeatedly following a person from place to place (stalking)
Repeatedly communicating with a person, either directly or indirectly
Watching a place where a person lives, works, carries on business or happens to be (peeping Tom)
Engaging in threatening conduct directed at the other person or any member of their family.”
Just as the Board of Directors and Deborah had previously instructed, Officer Dearden also reiterated that staff should call the police when there is “violence or any threat of violence”.
What Happens When a Resident Harasses a Worker?
It depends on the degree of harassment. Sometimes, for less severe incidents, Property Management (or the Board of Directors) will send a first warning. Most often, when the case is more severe/threatening, the Corporation forwards the relevant paperwork and evidence to our Solicitors, who write to the resident(s) with a summary of the inappropriate behaviour, why it’s not acceptable, and warn them that there will be tougher consequences going forward. The cost of such a letter is usually around $750+HST, which is charged back to the suite owner.
If the harassment was extreme (ie: regular courses of harassment, threatening bodily harm, violence, etc.), the Corporation has the right to remove certain privileges from owners, including (but not limited to): no longer allowing them near the areas where the harassed employees work (ex: the Management Office, the Security Desk, etc.), having the resident arrested by police, and even looking at possible eviction from the building (this is a possibility even for owners).
We understand that the great majority of owners are respectful individuals, and hope that we won’t encounter any such issues in the future with anyone, as it is in all of our best interests to keep our home and community safe for all- and that includes our staff.
The Board of Directors is optimistic that the future will hold a more friendly tone. We ask that, should you be frustrated with any staff for any reason, you maintain a cool temper- it is in everyone’s best interest, and especially yours!
If you feel that you are being misunderstood, or treated in a wrongful way, please contact Property Management or The Board of Directors and we will happily work through the problem with you. Sometimes, unfortunately, we cannot accommodate everything that residents (or staff) wish for (after all, even Management and The Board have many rules that we must follow), but the Directors can promise that we will listen in a professional manner, and do our absolute best to propose some options for whatever the situation may be.
All the best,
Andreea Birloncea, Board President
on behalf of The Board of Directors.
Please note that the minutes contain language which some may consider offensive.
Photo (from left to right): Andreea Birloncea (President, Board of Directors), Douglas (Superintendent), Osvaldo (TSCC 2368, General Labour), Jennifer (Security Supervisor, Paragon), Jason (Superintendent), Caroline Coitino (Assistant Property Manager), Deborah Howden (Partner, Shibley Righton), Vida (Property Manager), Sandra (Cleaner, Executive Maintenance Services), Zeev (Owner, Executive Maintenance Services), Manuel (Cleaner, Executive Maintenance Services), Lisandro (Cleaner, Executive Maintenance Services), Rosa (Cleaner, Executive Maintenance Services), Brandon (Patrol Guard, Paragon).