Workplace Bullying & Harassment

Bullying and Harassment is an occupational health and safety issue that poses a potential risk to the physical and mental health and safety of employees.  It can lead to lower productivity, physical illness, and increased risk of injury if someone is distracted while performing work tasks.  SFU's Workplace Bullying & Harassment Program was developed in accordance with WorkSafeBC legislation and is specific to SFU employees.  The primary goal of the Program is to prevent or minimize bullying and harassment in the workplace.  If this is not possible, the Program outlines reporting and investigation procedures for addressing incidents of bullying and harassment in the workplace.

How is Workplace Bullying and Harassment Defined?

Workplace Bullying and Harassment includes:  any inappropriate conduct or comment by a person towards a worker that the person knew or reasonably ought to have known would cause that worker to be humiliated or intimidated, but excludes any reasonable action taken by an employer or supervisor relating to the management and direction of workers.

Some examples might include:

  • Verbal aggression, insults, or calling someone derogatory names
  • Vandalizing a worker’s personal belongings 
  • Sabotaging another person’s work
  • Spreading malicious rumours
  • Carrying out harmful or offensive initiation practices or hazing
  • Making personal attacks based on a worker’s private life or personal traits
  • Making aggressive or threatening gestures

Cyber-bullying is another form of bullying and harassment. It can include sending harassing emails or text messages, or posting humiliating or intimidating information on social media or websites.

What is not workplace bullying and harassment

Expressing a difference of opinion, offering constructive feedback or advice about work-related behaviour or performance, and making a legitimate complaint through established procedures about a manager’s or another worker’s conduct are not bullying and harassment.

Reasonable management action might include decisions relating to:

  • Job duties and/or work to be performed
  • Workloads and deadlines
  • Layoffs, transfers, promotions, and reorganizations
  • Work instruction, supervision, or feedback
  • Work evaluation
  • Performance management, or
  • Discipline, suspensions, or terminations

What are the impacts of workplace bullying & harassment?

How can bullying affect an employee?

People who are the targets of bullying may experience a range of effects. These reactions could include any one or a combination of:

  • shock
  • anger
  • feelings of frustration and/or helplessness
  • increased sense of vulnerability
  • loss of confidence
  • physical symptoms such as inability to sleep or loss of appetite
  • psychosomatic symptoms such as stomach pain or headaches
  • panic or anxiety, especially about going to work
  • family tension and stress
  • inability to concentrate
  • low morale and productivity

How can bullying affect the workplace?

Bullying affects the overall "health" of an organization. An "unhealthy" workplace can have many effects including any one or a combination of:

  • increased absenteeism
  • increased staff turnover
  • increased stress
  • increased risk for accidents / incidents
  • distracting someone who is performing a dangerous task
  • decreased productivity and motivation
  • decreased morale
  • poor customer service.

What are the Requirements under the Legislation?

Employers are required to:

  • provide a work environment that is free from the effects of bullying and harassment;
  • develop policy statements for the workplace;
  • take steps to prevent or minimize bullying and harassment;
  • develop and implement procedures to report and investigate incidents and complaints;
  • inform and train workers and supervisors; and,
  • annually review the policy statements and procedures for reporting and dealing with incidents and complaints.

Supervisors are required to:

  • not engage in bullying and harassment; and,
  • apply and comply with SFU’s policies and procedures on bullying and harassment.

Employees are required to:

  • not engage in bullying and harassment;  
  • report  any bullying and harassment observed or experienced in the workplace; and,
  • apply and comply with SFU’s policies and procedures on bullying and harassment.

How to Report Workplace Bullying and Harassment

The following steps should be taken by employees if they are being bullied or harassed in the workplace:  

1. Approach the Alleged Bully/Harasser

If the complainant feels safe and comfortable doing so, they should calmly approach the alleged bully/harasser and inform them their behaviour is unwanted, unacceptable and contrary to University policy.  They should insist that the offensive behaviour stop immediately.

2. Inform your Supervisor

If the unwelcome behaviour continues, the complainant should contact their immediate Supervisor to address the situation.  Reports should be made as soon as possible after the incident to ensure it is investigated and addressed in a timely manner.  Written accounts of incidents should be maintained and submitted with any complaints. This information is considered sensitive; therefore, it should be protected from unauthorized collection, access, use, disclosure, and retention by others who do not need to know.

If the Supervisor is the alleged bully/harasser, the complainant has the option of contacting the Department head, employee group representative, Human Resources Advisor or Academic Relations Advisor for assistance. 

3. Inform Safety & Risk Services

If the complainant feels his/her concerns have not been adequately addressed at the departmental level, the Workplace Bullying and Harassment Report form should be completed.  The form asks for information about the affected employee, the alleged bully/harasser, and a detailed account of the alleged bullying and harassment behaviour and the actions taken by the department to address this behaviour. 

There will be no repercussions for pursuing a bullying and harassment complaint that is made in good faith.  The complaint will be kept confidential insofar as is possible within the confines of a fair and effective investigation.  Frivolous, vexatious, or malicious complaints of bullying and harassment may result in discipline.

How will complaints be addressed?

It is expected that supervisors will address any reported complaints of workplace bullying and harassment within their departments.  They are encouraged to seek advice and assistance from their employee group, Human Resources, Academic Relations, or the Human Rights and Equity Office.  The Supervisors are required to keep a written record of investigations, including the findings and steps taken to address the complaint, where applicable. Resources are available to assist Supervisors or Department Heads with addressing complaints here.

If the situation cannot be resolved at the departmental level, complainants should report the alleged behaviour to Safety and Risk Services through the report form described above.  Upon receiving a report of workplace bullying and harassment, Safety and Risk Services will first determine whether the Supervisor and/or Department head was informed of the incident and what steps, if any, were taken to resolve the situation.

Education & Training

All employees at Simon Fraser University must participate in workplace bullying and harassment training.  An online training module is available for both employees and supervisors that provides an overview of the WorkSafeBC requirements and SFU’s program.  In addition, training sessions will be provided to departments and service units upon request.  An external training provider will be brought in to deliver focused training workshops to areas/departments, when deemed necessary.

Supervisors are encouraged to participate in the management courses offered by Human Resources, including Managing Conflict in the Workplace and Managing Mental Health at Work.   

Contact Information

If you have any questions or concerns: