‘Bullets’ comment made in heat of illegal strike not harassment

Comment and gesture made in frustration; not every inappropriate comment is harassment under employer’s policy: Arbitrator
By Jeffrey R. Smith
|Canadian Employment Law Today|Last Updated: 07/06/2016

An arbitrator has determined that an Alberta correctional centre director did not harass correctional officers about to go on an illegal strike when the director made a gun-related comment and a gesture at them.

The Fort Saskatchewan Correctional Centre in Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., issued a sexual and workplace harassment policy in November 2012 that stated it was committed to providing a “working environment free of harassment.” The policy was zero-tolerance and defined workplace harassment as “unwelcome conduct that is offensive in nature and detrimentally affects the work environment or leads to adverse job-related consequences for the victims.”

The policy indicated key characteristics of harassment were one-sided conduct that was offensive and unwelcome, including remarks and physical assault. It also specifically excluded “the legitimate exercise of an individual’s supervisory authority.”