Examples of problematic workplace behaviours often include the obvious: a racial slur, a homophobic “joke” or inappropriate touching. But what happens when the behaviour in question is less overt? While seemingly innocuous, these types of comments can amount to what has been dubbed “microaggressions”. Named the ‘Top Word of 2015’ by the Global Language Monitor, this term has become increasingly popular in our common parlance. But what are microaggressions and why should employers (and other institutions) be concerned about them?
The law on harassment investigations tells us that an employer must conduct an investigation that is “reasonable” and “appropriate in the circumstances.” The challenge is to know what the exact content of a reasonable and appropriate investigation is, particularly when the workplace issue to investigate appears to be like a puzzle with missing pieces whose final picture is constantly shifting.
Policies and procedures serve many roles in the workplace. In simplest terms, a policy sets out the legislation-mandated as well as the expected standards of behaviour for employees and stakeholders. Procedures provide a how-to guide to direct individuals where to go when they question the behavior they see or experience.
Guidance on appropriate investigations into inappropriate comments
As investigators, we see that harassment often comes in the form of derogatory comments about people’s racial and ethnic background, as well as their sex, gender identity and gender expression. What we do not see as investigators, but can reasonably assume, is that these comments often go uninvestigated. Why?