Policy on harassment prevention and conflict resolution (2016)

1. Effective date

1.1 This policy is effective November 24 2016.

1.2 This policy replaces the NRC Policy on Harassment in the Workplace (16 January 2010) and Guidelines – Respectful Workplace and Prevention of Harassment (16 January 2010).

2. Application

2.1 This policy applies to all NRC employees as defined in Section 5 (below).

2.2 The scope of this policy applies to employee behaviour in the workplace or at any location or event related to work, including while

  • on travel status,
  • at a conference where the attendance is supported by NRC,
  • at any NRC training sessions, and
  • at other NRC supported events including social events.

2.3 Any allegation of inappropriate behaviour by individuals working on NRC premises (but who are not NRC employees) will be addressed in accordance with the spirit and intent of this policy.

3. Context

This policy reflects developments since the adoption of the above cited NRC Policy on Harassment in the Workplace (16 January 2010), notably modifications to the Treasury Board of Canada Policy on Harassment Prevention and Resolution and the establishment of the NRC Code of Conduct, which includes the Values and Ethics Code of the Public Sector.

This policy recognizes that while certain workplace behaviours may not meet the definition of harassment, they can be inappropriate and can create difficult situations. It thus puts an emphasis on informal conflict resolution, training and awareness, recognizing that workplace conflicts that are not addressed can evolve into harassment situations. Prevention and alternate dispute resolution approaches can, for example, offer practical alternatives to formal processes.

This policy also recognizes that whether a situation is determined, through mediation or investigation, to involve harassment or other inappropriate behaviour, specific attention is required to restore the workplace and establish a constructive climate for all concerned.

This policy has been revised with a view toward ensuring compatibility with the related tools and guidance documentation prepared by the Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) and is to be read in conjunction with the relevant TBS resources presented as footnotes to this document.

4. Policy statement

NRC values and the values of the public sector, as expressed in the NRC Code of Conduct, uphold the practice of respect, fairness and courtesy and the importance of demonstrating human dignity within professional relationships. Success in the practice of these values is expected to foster a safe and healthy workplace with particular consideration of the impact on mental health. All persons at NRC have the right to be treated fairly and respectfully in their place of work and also have the responsibility to treat colleagues in a manner that respects individual differences and contributes to a harassment-free workplace.

This policy stresses the responsibility of managers (MGT category and other employee supervisors) to protect employees beyond the requirements of the Canadian Human Rights Act, by requiring managers and supervisors to act on all forms of inappropriate behaviour.

This policy also respects the Canada Labour Code Part II and the Canada Occupational Health and Safety Regulations regarding Violence Prevention in the Work Place. These legislative instruments require every employer to provide employees with a safe, healthy, and violence-free work environment and to dedicate sufficient attention, resources and time to address factors that contribute to workplace violence including bullying, teasing and other aggressive or abusive behaviours. These issues are also addressed in part by the NRC Directive on Workplace Violence Prevention.


The objective of this policy is to provide managers and supervisors with directions and set out expected results to foster a respectful workplaceFootnote 1, and address potential situations of harassment in the context of wide-ranging support for a safe and respectful workplace.

4.1 Expected results

This policy anticipates the following results:

Awareness and prevention

That expectation of respect for people, as stated in the NRC Code of Conduct, is clear and known to employees. Employees and managers are supported effectively and encouraged to demonstrate a high level of respect for people.


Employees have been given opportunities to learn about harassment prevention strategies, the harassment complaint process, and their right to a harassment free workplaceFootnote 2.

Resolution processes (informal and formal)

Employees can raise difficult issues without fear of reprisal and will be provided with the means for effective, timely, and confidential resolution of these issues.

  • Informal: Employees are provided with opportunities to access informal resolution resources when appropriate, and they are supported by all parties involved in actively resolving difficult issues.
  • Formal: Employees know in advance how a complaint will be addressed and that the formal process will be undertaken promptly, with sensitivity, competence, discretion, and rigor.


Parties involved and colleagues are supported in returning to a work environment that is fair and respectful.

5. Definitions

Complaint is an allegation of harassment communicated verbally or submitted in writing. For the formal harassment complaint process, a written complaint must be submitted.

Employee includes continuing employees, term employees, short-term employees, part-time employees, employees on secondment, and supplementary employees such as employees in post-retirement situations.

HarassmentFootnote 3 is improper conduct by an individual, that is directed at and offensive to another individual in the workplace, including at any event or any location related to work, and that the individual knew or ought reasonably to have known would cause offence or harm. It comprises objectionable act(s), comment(s) or display(s) that demean, belittle, or cause personal humiliation or embarrassment, and any act of intimidation or threat. It also includes harassment within the meaning of the Canadian Human Rights Act (i.e. based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, disability and pardoned conviction).

More specifically, harassment is normally a series of incidents but can be one severe incident which has a lasting impact on the individual. The definition of harassment means that more than one act or event is needed in order to constitute harassment and that taken individually, this act or event need not constitute harassment. It is the repetition that generates the harassment. In other words, harassment consists of repeated and persistent behaviours towards an individual to torment, undermine, frustrate or provoke a reaction from that person. It is a behaviour that, with persistence, pressures, frightens, intimidates, or incapacitates another person. Each behaviour viewed individually may seem inoffensive; it is the synergy and repetitive characteristic of the behaviours that produce harmful effects. However, one single incident can constitute harassment when it is demonstrated that it is severe and has a significant and lasting impact on the complainant.

The legitimate and proper exercise of management's authority or responsibility does not constitute harassment.

Sexual and physical assaults are defined by the Criminal Code and will be dealt with according to that legislation. If an individual has been assaulted, he or she should seek assistance immediately and contact the police.

Formal Resolution Process is the process involving grievances or official complaintsFootnote 4 and the consequent investigationsFootnote 5.

Informal Resolution ProcessFootnote 6 is a confidential, voluntary and collaborative problem-solving approach such as face to face conversation, conflict coaching, facilitated discussion or mediation that has the advantage of addressing the needs of the parties involved, concerns and mutual interests. Informal resolution processes are also commonly called interest-based conflict resolution, informal conflict management and alternative dispute resolution. The participation and cooperation of all parties, including union representatives and NRC Human Resources Branch experts, are needed to ensure an effective use of this type of process and to access needed resources.

Restoration of the workplaceFootnote 7 is the establishment or re-establishment of harmonious working relationships amongst individuals and within the team, group or unit, following a harassment complaint.

6. Policy requirements

6.1 The President of NRC is responsible for:

  • designating officials for the application of the NRC Policy on Harassment Prevention and Resolution and the NRC Directive on the Harassment Complaint Process;
  • monitoring compliance with this policy and its associated directive within the organization; and
  • ensuring that it is updated and revised as required.

6.2 Vice-President (Human Resources) is responsible for:

Awareness and training

Ensuring that preventive activities are in place to maintain a harassment-free workplace including actions to inform employees about the employer's commitment to fostering a harassment-free workplace and ensuring that results are achieved in a manner that respects employees.

Formal resolution process - grievances

Addressing formal complaints that have been advanced through grievance procedures established pursuant to employee collective agreements.

Restoration of the workplace

Assisting managers in measures to restore the workplace environment.

Evaluation of the processes and revision of the policy

Assessing compliance through mechanisms such as the Public Service Employee Surveys, Management Accountability Framework (as appropriate), other data collection methods, regular consultation with employee union representatives, and with discussions such as those through focus groups, in partnership with the employee union representatives.

6.3 The Senior Ethics Officer is responsible for:


  • supporting the President, the Secretary General and the Vice-President (Human Resources) as appropriate in the above stated responsibilities.

Formal resolution process - complaints

  • specifically for the administration of formal complaints and related measures made pursuant to this policy and its associated directive.

6.4 Managers and Supervisors are responsible for:

  • understanding this policy and its associated directive and explaining their provisions to their employees;
  • actively fostering a work environment which is free from inappropriate behaviour;
  • promoting the early resolution of conflicts and seeking advice from the NRC Human Resources Branch on available informal and formal conflict resolution resources;
  • dealing diligently with any apparent inappropriate behaviour which comes to their attention, whether or not a complaint has been made;
  • protecting persons involved in an informal or a formal process from reprisal from any source; and
  • taking the appropriate measures to restore the workplace and to ensure that the parties involved and colleagues that share the work environment continue or resume their assigned duties once the formal or informal process is complete.

6.5 NRC Human resources practitioners

NRC Human Resources practitioners are resource persons for employees who encounter or witness inappropriate behaviours. Within the limitations of their roles, they are expected to support the early resolution of conflicts.

6.6 All Employees and persons working at NRC including those on secondment to NRC are responsible for:

  • helping to create and maintain a respectful workplace;
  • treating everyone with respect and dignity, as specified in the NRC Code of Conduct as well as in this Policy;
  • reporting to their immediate supervisor (or his/her supervisor) any clearly inappropriate behaviour that they witness;
  • informing their immediate supervisor (or his/her supervisor) should they feel that they are being treated disrespectfully;
  • encouraging and supporting colleagues or other persons to take action if these persons believe that they are being treated disrespectfully;
  • limiting escalation of conflict, disputes or tensions in the workplace; and
  • participating in conflict resolution processes and efforts.

7. Other relevant legislation/regulations

Other relevant legislation/regulations are available for NRC employees:

  • NRC Official Languages Policy
  • NRC Directive on Workplace Violence Prevention
  • NRC Employment Equity Policy
  • NRC Multiculturalism Policy
  • NRC Accommodation Policy


Footnote 1

See TBS document Preventing and resolving harassment in the workplace "Learn how managers can foster a culture of respect and intervene when faced with issues related to harassment."

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Footnote 2

See Government of Canada document People to People communication: "Explore the subject of harassment prevention and resolution in the federal workplace, and contribute to building a healthy workplace with key communication skills."

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Footnote 3

See Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) document Is it Harassment? A Tool to Guide Employees?: "Learn, with concrete examples, what constitutes harassment under the Treasury Board policy definition."

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Footnote 4

See TBS document Applying the harassment resolution process: "Information and best practices about the harassment resolution process, including informal resolution processes and the formal harassment complaint process."

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Footnote 5

See TBS document Investigation Guide for the Policy on Harassment Prevention and Resolution: "About the stages of the investigation process and access tools, templates and tips to conduct a thorough and professional investigation."

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Footnote 6

See TBS document Informal conflict management: "Find out how to manage and resolve conflicts in the federal workplace quickly and constructively with honest discussion and collaborative problem solving."

Return to footnote 6 referrer

Footnote 7

See TBS document Restoring the workplace following a harassment complaint:"Learn how to manage sensitive and complex issues related to harassment in the federal workplace with the aim of restoring a respectful work environment once a formal process has been initiated."

Return to footnote 7 referrer

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