Fact Sheet #2b) Discussion of Human Rights Complaints Process

Level 1

Element: Communication and Consultation

Outcome 2: Consultation and communication begins regarding anti-discrimination and employment equity matters.

Indicator 2b): Discussions took place with employees, employee associations and the unions about the complaints process and the provisions of the collective agreements.

Possible Measures and Data Sources:

  • Minutes of meetings; documentation of complaints (grievances) and resolution efforts.
  • Records of data on the number, type, and nature of complaints communicated to employee associations/unions.
  • Documentation of agreement on complaint process.

Indicator Description

Organizations that embrace the values of equity and human rights still have complaints to process. Properly handling complaints is an effective way to boost employee satisfaction, identify problems and correct them quickly, and improve the organization’s image. Organizations have to initiate dialogue with employees, employee associations and unions on these important issues. This is the start of discussions and consultations that will continue at all levels of the model. This dialogue is also an opportunity to discuss collective agreement articles that may seem neutral at first blush but could possibly pose a disadvantage to a person or group.

At Level 1, Senior Management talks with employees, employee associations and unions to better understand how human rights complaints are managed and ensure that the provisions of collective agreements are not discriminatory. The organization examines its practices, both formal and informal. It verifies that its complaints process complies with the principles of access, transparency, impartiality and redress and is completed within a reasonable time frame.

For example, the organization can hold meetings with employee representatives or, in a union environment, hold labour-management meetings to initiate dialogue. The meetings can be used to place standing items on the agenda that pertain to human rights issues. A range of topics may be addressed, such as the number of complaints received, the complaints process, improvements to be made to collective agreements and work practices, etc.

Suggested Approach

  • Use existing forums: Representatives of employees, employee associations and the unions can attend meetings of existing labour relations or organizational health groups (See Fact Sheet #1b)). It is important to openly discuss suggestions made, as well as the concerns and obstacles the participants see with regard to the handling of complaints.
  • Share the results of your HRMM self-assessment: By examining the results of your self-assessment with respect to complaints, you will gain a better understanding of the organization’s current situation with regard to human rights and can focus on issues in need of immediate attention.
  • Initiate a dialogue: Encourage meeting participants to express their viewpoints and ideas on:
    • Collective agreement provisions that could be improved to better protect human rights.
    • The most respectful and effective way to handle human rights complaints, whether addressed to a specific person, the organization itself or to the unions and employee associations.
    • The ways in which the unions and employee associations can help to achieve HRMM objectives.
  • Make sure your complaints process is sound: The complaints process must meet the following criteria:
    • Access: The procedure to follow to file a complaint must be easy to find, use and understand. It must be written in plain language in a format that meets everyone’s needs and be free of discrimination (use special formats as needed; e.g., large type, Braille, audio format, subtitles, etc.).
    • Transparency: The procedure is familiar to everyone and followed as is, without secrecy.
    • Confidentiality: Personal information submitted by the complainant (e.g., medical information) must be protected to ensure the person is not harmed or embarrassed by its dissemination.
    • Competence and authority: The people handling human rights files have the knowledge to do so and have a clear mandate setting out their authority and responsibilities.
    • Impartiality: The people handling human rights files have the authority to do so, are not personally involved in the complaints and handle them in an impartial manner.
    • Redress: In the case of a complaint, we cannot go back and undo what happened. The procedure must therefore make provision for redress measures that allow the victim to find working conditions similar to what he or she had prior to the discrimination incident, within a reasonable time frame. For example, monetary compensation may be paid if the person was passed over for a promotion because of discrimination. Taking disciplinary action against the person who engaged in discrimination is not considered a redress measure for the victim.
    • Reasonable time frame: The organization must do its utmost to move the complaint process along wherever possible, without undue delay.
    • Rationale for the decision: When the complaint has been processed, the final decision is handed down to the parties orally or in writing. The parties are given sufficient details to understand how their rights were considered in rendering the justified and documented decision.

Promising Practices

  • Transparent human rights discussion process: Within an organization, the number of human rights complaints received is indicated at each labour-management meeting, while safeguarding the confidentiality of information about the complainants and complaints. A topic is identified and discussion centres on how the organization, associations and unions can do better with regard to these issues. The minutes are subsequently posted on the organization’s intranet site.
  • Joint complaints working group: Following a discussion with the unions, an organization set up a joint employer-employee working group on improving the complaints process.
  • Guest experts: Some organizations invite experts to make presentations on human rights-related topics (eg, CHRA, EEA, handling complaints). Consequently, the group has a better, shared understanding of practices commonly used by other organizations.

Useful Tools and Links

Employment Equity Act

Canadian Human Rights Act

Making information accessible - Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services

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