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Workplace Harassment and Bullying
Increasingly, bullying at the school level is becoming a concern, not only as it affects students, but also as it affects teachers and other education workers. These school employees experience aggressive behaviour from students, parents, colleagues, and school administrators.
ETFO and the other teacher federations are seeking a number of actions to address the problem, including policies at the school board level and amendments to the Employment Standards Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
What is Workplace Bullying?
Bullying is a form of harassment and a form of violence in the workplace. Bullying or harassment can be based on the grounds set out in the Human Rights Code, or it can be a form of psychological or personal harassment apart from the Human Rights Code. Often, bullying and harassment are manifestations of abuse of power.
It is objectionable conduct or comment directed towards a specific person, which serves no legitimate work purpose, and creates an intimidating, humiliating, hostile or offensive work environment.
Member Survey Conducted
A survey, entitled Bullying in the Workplace, conducted by James Matsui and Lang Research and commissioned by the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, and the Ontario Secondary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, found that:
The survey also underscored that the personal consequences of bullying include absences from work, increased fear, loss of sleep, loss of self-confidence, anxiety, appetite loss, and depression. Severe panic attacks, and loss of appetite, self-confidence, and concentration are most prevalent reactions when bullied by an administrator.
Definitions of Harassment
Schools are workplaces, governed by the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Under that legislation, school board supervisors and administrators must take every reasonable precaution in the circumstances to protect all workers, including teachers, in the school setting.
Recent studies have shown that teachers are subjected to a vast range of abusive treatment from students, including verbal assaults, physical assaults and threats, and damage to their property.
Teachers may also be harassed by parents, colleagues, or by managers. This type of harassment may consist of:
Teachers have a right to protection from violence in their workplace. They are not required to tolerate behaviour which threatens their safety and well-being. Reasonable measures must be established to achieve this goal. Harassment is not the normal, reasonable exercise of managerial authority.
What to Do If You Are Being Harassed
Respectful communications are key to all workplace interactions. If you are being harassed:
Teachers and education support workers also have a right to protection from violence in the workplace. They should not have to tolerate behaviour that threatens their safety and well-being. Reasonable measures must be established to achieve this goal.
ETFO believes the government should require school boards to:
Appropriate amendments are also required to give teachers and other education workers a legal framework for addressing incidents of workplace harassment.
Specifically, ETFO is seeking an amendment to the Employment Standards Act similar to the provisions of the Labour Standards Act that protect employees from workplace psychological harassment.
The Federation is also requesting an amendment to the Occupational Health and Safety Act to include protection from psychological harassment and violence.
- Bullying in the Workplace survey conducted by James Matsui and Lang Research and commissioned by the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, and the Ontario Secondary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario.
- Bill 45, the Occupational Health and Safety Amendment Act (Harassment), 2005.