Québec case law often goes unnoticed in the rest of Canada and remains inaccessible to most workplace investigators across the country, primarily due to linguistic reasons. This situation is quite unfortunate since Québec courts, tribunals, and adjudicators render interesting and innovative decisions every year in various areas of interest, including human rights and labour law.
La jurisprudence québécoise passe souvent inaperçue dans les autres provinces canadiennes et demeure inaccessible pour la grande majorité des enquêteurs et enquêteuses en milieu de travail du pays, et ce, pour des raisons principalement linguistiques. Cette situation est malheureuse, puisque chaque année, les tribunaux québécois rendent des décisions intéressantes et innovatrices dans plusieurs domaines d’intérêt, dont en droits de la personne et en droit du travail.
In organizational contexts, people are often familiar with investigation processes and workplace assessments as the “go to” measures to resolve complaints or conflicts in the workplace. These are important and necessary processes, but workplace restoration is in fact also an option, though not often considered.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, harassment and discrimination investigations have become quite prevalent in the workplace in recent years. Notwithstanding the legislative mandate, it is a positive indication when organizations are responding to complaints of harassment and discrimination within their workplace. However, in my experience as a workplace investigator, I often see quite clearly that, before an organization decides to pursue an investigation, there are multiple opportunities to address some of the issues by using less adversarial means.
Employers sometimes ask us for guidance on how to share the results of a workplace investigation with the parties. It’s not difficult to imagine why.
All parties to an investigation—so long as they are employees of the employer—are entitled to learn the results of the investigation, as noted in the Ministry of Labour’s Code of Practice.
Yet letting a Complainant know that his harassment complaint was not substantiated, or telling a Respondent that he engaged in bullying, is difficult information to deliver. Information like this can be physically and emotionally overwhelming for the parties to hear, and both may experience a variety of emotions in response.
We know that workplace investigations can be disorienting experiences for the employees involved in them. Even a well-planned investigation can leave employees confused, at best, or deeply hurt and resentful toward one another or their employer, at worst.
Recently I was invited to present a paper at the 2013 Canadian Association of Statutory Human Rights Agencies (CASHRA) as part of a panel titled A Model for the Future: Restorative Approach. The question the panel was designed to address was, “Can a restorative approach meet the stated purpose of each human rights jurisdiction in