Collective agreements vary from workplace to workplace. There are different ways that workplace sexual harassment can be a breach of a collective agreement. When a collective agreement is breached the union can file a grievance. Generally only a union can file a grievance.
Workplace sexual harassment can be a breach when the collective agreement…
A grievance could be based on an employer’s failure to provide a sexual harassment-free workplace.
Sexual harassment need not be directed at a particular individual. Employers face a high duty to ensure that the workplace is free from material that is offensive. ~Jones v. IWA, Local No., 1-3567 (British Columbia Supreme Court)
A grievance could be based on how an employer has dealt with an alleged harasser.
The grievor, in this case, posted hateful comments...one of which could reasonably be construed as a threat of sexual assault. The company is responsible…for maintaining a workplace free of harassment. I do not find that the company violated the collective agreement by terminating the grievor’s employment. ~United Steelworkers of America, Local 9548 v Tenaris Algoma Tubes Inc. (Ontario Labour Arbitration)
A grievance could be based on how an employer treated a worker who has experienced sexual harassment.
The Arbitrator is satisfied that the Grievor's refusal to continue to work was based on a reasonable personal excuse. She appropriately attempted to obtain permission to leave her station to report that she was being sexually harassed. ~Hershey Canada Inc. (Moirs Division) v Bakery, Confectionery & Tobacco Workers' International Union (BCT), Local 446 (Nova Scotia Labour Arbitration)
Collective agreements usually set out a process for dealing with grievances. For this reason the process can vary from workplace to workplace. Generally, the grievance process will have a number of steps each designed to try to resolve the issue.
Unions have a duty to fairly represent members who are alleging a breach of the collective agreement. They cannot act without any rational reason or dishonestly. They cannot discriminate against a member on any grounds, including whether they like the person, when deciding what to do with a complaint.
If an employee thinks the union has not fairly represented them when dealing with a grievance they can make a complaint to the Labour Relations Board.
When sexual harassment takes place in the workplace it can be, and often is, perpetrated by a fellow employee. In this situation the union must fairly represent both members of the union.
This site provides general information about workplace sexual harassment only. It is not a substitute for receiving legal advice about your situation. Apply now to receive 4 hours of free legal advice.
The Shift Project is funded by the Department of Justice and delivered by the Public Legal Education Association of Saskatchewan (PLEA).