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Harrassment complaints procedure

Introduction

The Union takes sexual harassment and other forms of harassment seriously and it will not be tolerated under any circumstances.

The following complaint procedures adopted by CEPU Communications Division set out the procedures to be followed in the event that a complaint of sexual harassment or harassment is made by or against any officer, employee or member of the Union.

Any person who makes a complaint of sexual harassment or harassment will be advised of their right to:

  • discuss the problem with the alleged harasser in an attempt to resolve the matter in a constructive way; and/or
  • try to resolve the complaint through the Union’s endorsed procedures; and/or
  • pursue the complaint under the provisions of the Commonwealth Sex Discrimination Act 1984 or relevant State/Territory through lodging a complaint with the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission or appropriate State body; and/or
  • pursue the complaint through another appropriate representative body such as their union.

Objectives

The objectives of the complaint procedures are to ensure that:

(a) all complaints are treated seriously and impartially and are responded to within the shortest possible timeframe;
(b) confidentiality is maintained;
(c) no victimisation will result from the making of the complaint;
(d) the rights of the complaint and of the respondent (alleged harasser) will be respected at all times and that each is given an adequate opportunity to be heard and to respond to material presented by the other; and
(e) the outcome of the grievance and reasons for the decision are provided to both parties.

CEPU Procedures

(a) Informal Process

  • A complainant who chooses to discuss the problem directly with the respondent may seek advice on possible strategies from any other person.
  • A complainant may also choose to ask another officer, employee or member to speak to the respondent on their behalf.
  • All involved in informal procedures will observe the requirements of confidentiality and the desirability of a speedy resolution to the complaint.
  • If the alleged behaviour continues, then the complainant has the option to make a formal complaint.Complaints involving criminal behaviour, behaviour which places others at risk, or behaviour which affects the union as a whole, must be handled formally, regardless of the complainant’s wishes.This should be explained to the complainant by any officer, employee or member of the union who is approached for advice. (b) Formal ProcessIf an officer, employee or member of the Union chooses to attempt to resolve their complaint through the Union’s formal internal procedure the following steps will be followed:
    • The complaint is to be provided in writing to the relevant Branch Secretary (or nominee) the Divisional Secretary (or nominee) outlining the nature of the complaint.
    • A copy of the Sexual Harassment and Other Forms of Harassment Policy and Complaint Procedures will be made available to the complainant within 24 business hours of receiving the complaint.
    • The Branch Secretary or Divisional Secretary or their nominee will discuss and if necessary further advise the complainant in writing within 5-7 business days (or earlier depending on the seriousness of the complaint) from when they are in receipt of the complaint of possible steps to be undertaken in line with CEPU Sexual Harassment and Other Forms of Harassment Policy and Complaint Procedures.
    • Should the complainant wish to proceed with the complaint a copy of the complaint along with a copy of the CEPU Sexual Harassment and Other Forms of Harassment Policy and Complaint Procedures will be made available to the respondent.
    • Similarly any written response from the respondent will be provided to the complainant.
    • The Branch Secretary or Divisional Secretary or their nominee will contact both parties as soon as possible with a view to arranging mediation/conciliation of the complaint.
    • If the complainant remains dissatisfied with the outcome or progress of the complaint or it would be inappropriate to refer the complaint back to the Branch Secretary (or nominee), the complaint may then be referred to the Divisional Secretary (or nominee), if this has not previously occurred, who will attempt further mediation/conciliation.
    • If the complaint is not resolved by mediation/conciliation, the Divisional Secretary (or nominee) may then arrange for an investigation to be undertaken to determine whether the alleged incident(s) did or did not happen. The standard of proof required in this area is on the balance of probabilities which means deciding whether something probably did or did not happen.
    • If still dissatisfied with the outcome the complainant will be advised of their right to refer the matter to Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission or State Tribunal and/or their union.

    Note: An external person may be appointed to undertake the mediation/conciliation and/or investigation of a complaint.

    At all stages of the complaint all parties must ensure that there is no undue delay in trying to resolve the complaint. The complainant and respondent must be kept advised of any delays in handling a complaint.

    Confidentiality is expected from the complainant, the respondent and anyone who is helping to resolve the complaint. Information regarding the complaint will only be disclosed to those who can assist in the resolution of the matter.

    A complainant or respondent may be represented and/or supported by a third party of their choosing at any interview occurring as a result of the complaint.

    • If the Branch Secretary or Divisional Secretary is satisfied that the complaint is substantiated they may:
    • counsel the harasser;
    • instruct the harasser to issue an apology to the complainant;
    • impose disciplinary action such as a warning, demotion, dismissal or any other penalty which is consistent with the rules of the CEPU; and/or
    • implement appropriate sexual harassment or other harassment training and awareness for the harasser.

    It is not always possible to substantiate a complaint, even if the complaint is justified. It needs to be clear to both parties that unsubstantiated may not mean that the incident did not occur. It may mean that no decision could be made because there was not enough information.

    If a complaint cannot be substantiated the Branch Secretary or Divisional Secretary may counsel both parties, authorise increased monitoring or training or take any other action consistent with the rules of the CEPU.

    Record Keeping

    If a Branch Secretary or Divisional Secretary or their nominee has had advisory discussions with a complainant or has taken informal action on an individual’s behalf a brief diary entry noting the incident, the area where it occurred and action taken must be kept.

    If a formal complaint has been mediated/conciliated a record must be kept on a confidential file of the complaint and response, details of the mediation/conciliation and the outcome.

    If a formal complaint has been investigated a full record is required, including statements provided by the parties, records of interview by the investigation officer with the parties and witnesses. Records must contain names, times, dates, details of specific incidents and frequency of occurrences.

    If a formal complaint against an official or employee is found to be substantiated a summary of the complaint, the finding and the disciplinary action taken must be recorded in their personal file. This can be removed after a reasonable period of time if there has been no repetition of the behaviour.

    All other documentation relating to the investigation must be kept in a sealed confidential file which can only be accessed with the authority of the Divisional Secretary (or nominee).

    All records will need to be retained for a reasonable amount of time (i.e. 12 months) in the event that a complaint is subsequently lodged with the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission or a State or Territory anti-discrimination agency.

    The purpose of record keeping is to identify if or when there are patterns of behaviour or cultural problems within the union which should be addressed through appropriate training and or disciplinary action.

    Withdrawal of a complaint

    Rejection of vexatious, frivolous or inappropriate complaints

    The Branch Secretary or Divisional Secretary or their nominee may decline to continue to deal with a complaint:

    • A person who makes a complaint under the formal process has the right to withdraw it at any time.
    • that is vexatious;
    • that is frivolous or trivial;
    • that the grievance would be more appropriately dealt with in an external forum; or
    • where an external dispute resolution mechanism has been actioned and that it would be inappropriate for the internal complaint procedure to commence or continue.

    The making vexatious or frivolous complaint is also misconduct. It could result in disciplinary action commensurate with that which could have been taken against the accused person, had the complaint been substantiated.

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