QWF Policy on the Prevention of Psychological or Sexual Harassment at Work


The purpose of this policy is to affirm the Quebec Writers’ Federation’s commitment to prevent and/or stop psychological and sexual harassment within the organization, including any form of discriminatory harassment. It also aims to establish the principles of intervention the organization will apply when a harassment complaint is filed or when harassment is reported to the employer or their representative.


This policy applies to all organization personnel at all levels, including contractors hired to deliver QWF activities. It applies in the following locations and contexts:

  • the workplace
  • any other location where people must be present in the course of their employment (e.g., during meetings, training sessions, travel, workshops, mentorship sessions, social activities organized by the employer);
  • for all types of communication, technological or otherwise.

Definition of harassment

The Quebec government’s Act Respecting Labour Standards defines psychological harassment as follows:

Any vexatious conduct, whether in the form of behaviour, communication, acts or gestures that are either hostile or unwelcome, and which affects an employee’s dignity or psychological or physical integrity, and that results in a harmful work environment for the employee. More specifically, psychological harassment includes such behaviour whether in the form of verbal comments, actions, or gestures of a sexual nature.

Even a single serious incident of such behaviour can constitute psychological harassment if it has a lasting, harmful effect on an employee.

The definition includes discriminatory harassment related to any of the grounds enumerated in the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms (see Appendix 1).

The concept of harassment is to be distinguished from other situations such as interpersonal conflict, work-related stress, difficult professional constraints or the normal exercise of management rights (pertaining to workplace presence, organization of work, disciplinary measures, etc.).

Policy statement

The Quebec Writers’ Federation (QWF) neither tolerates nor permits any form of psychological or sexual harassment in the workplace or during its activities, whether:

  • by board members to employees;
  • by managers to employees;
  • between colleagues;
  • by employees to their supervisors or to board members;
  • by employees to contract workers;
  • by contract workers to employees;
  • by contract workers to members of the community in the course of delivering QWF activities;
  • from any person associated with it, including representatives, volunteers, members, workshop leaders, other contractors, visitors or others.

Any behaviour constituting harassment may result in disciplinary action up to and including dismissal or any other appropriate responses.

QWF is committed to taking reasonable steps to:

  • provide a workplace free of all forms of harassment and to protect the dignity and psychological and physical integrity of individuals;
  • publicize this policy so as to make it accessible to all affected parties by giving copies of it to all board members, staff, and contract employees who represent the organization in the delivery of its activities, and by posting it on the QWF web site.
  • prevent or, as the case may be, stop harassment by:
    • putting in place a procedure for handling complaints and reports related to psychological or sexual harassment,
    • dealing promptly with any complaints or reports, and promoting respect among individuals

Expectations of staff

It is the responsibility of all staff to behave in a manner that promotes and maintains an environment free from psychological or sexual harassment.

Treatment of complaints and reports

Whenever possible, a person who believes they are being harassed or sexually harassed should first inform the person they believe is harassing them that their behaviour is undesirable and must end. They should also, to the extent possible, note the date and details of the incidents as well as the steps they took to try to resolve the situation.

If the particular situation makes this first intervention difficult, or if the harassment continues, the employee should report the situation to one of the responsible persons designated by the employer.

A complaint can be made verbally or in writing. The alleged conduct and details of the incident(s) should be described as accurately as possible. A person who witnesses a situation of harassment is also invited to report it to one of the below-mentioned responsible persons.

The responsible persons designated by the employer are as follows:

Lori Schubert, QWF Executive Director
Julie Barlow, QWF President

If, for some reason, a person complaining or witnessing harassment is not comfortable reporting the incident to either of the designated individuals, they may approach a QWF board member and a third party can be designated to receive the complaint or report.

Principles of intervention

QWF agrees to:

  • take charge of the complaint or report as soon as possible;
  • preserve the dignity and privacy of all involved (the person who made the complaint,
  • the person who is the subject of the complaint, and any witnesses) during the process, with the understanding that anonymity cannot be guaranteed in all cases, especially if the nature of the incident is serious enough to warrant dismissal of an employee or contractor;
  • strive to treat all concerned with humanity and fairness;
  • guide the person making the complaint toward organizations that provide appropriate professional support;
  • protect confidentiality of the parties during the investigation of the complaint or report;
  • offer to facilitate a meeting with all involved parties in order to attempt to resolve the situation;
  • conduct a prompt and objective investigation, as required, or assign responsibility to an external party. The persons concerned will be informed of the conclusion of this process. If the investigation cannot establish that there has been unacceptable behaviour, all material evidence will be retained for two years and subsequently destroyed;
  • take all reasonable steps to resolve the situation, including, but not limited to, appropriate disciplinary action (e.g., termination of employment, contract, or right to participate in QWF programs).

Anyone who breaches the harassment policy will be subject to appropriate disciplinary action. The choice of the response will take into account the seriousness and consequences of the action(s) as well as the previous record of the person who committed them.

A person who is found to have made false charges for the purpose of causing harm may also be subject to appropriate disciplinary action.

Non-unionized people who believe that they have suffered psychological or sexual harassment in connection with their work may also file a complaint at any time directly with the Standards, Equity, Health and Safety Commission (CNESST). The complaint must be filed within two (2) years of the last harassment event. The complaint can be filed online.

Complaints can also be filed by telephone at 1 844 838-0808.

Note that an employee’s decision to file a complaint first with their employer does not prevent them from filing a complaint with the CNESST.

Appendix 1 – Recognizing psychological or sexual harassment

The Quebec government’s Act Respecting Labour Standards provides criteria for determining what may be considered psychological or sexual harassment. To establish that the case actually involves psychological harassment, it is necessary to prove the presence of all of the elements of the definition:

Vexatious behaviour

The behaviour is humiliating, offensive or abusive for the person on the receiving end. It injures the person’s self-esteem and causes anguish. It exceeds what a reasonable person considers appropriate within the context of their work.

Repetitive in nature

Considered on its own, a verbal comment, a gesture or a behaviour may seem innocent. It is the accumulation or all of these behaviours which may become harassment. However, a single serious action can constitute psychological harassment if it has a lasting, harmful effect.

Verbal comments, gestures or behaviours that are hostile or unwanted

The comments, gestures or behaviours in question must be considered hostile or unwanted. If they are sexual in nature, they could be considered harassment even if the victim did not clearly express that they were unwelcome.

Affect the person’s dignity or integrity

Psychological harassment has a negative effect on the person. The victim may feel put down, belittled, denigrated, both at the personal and professional levels. The physical health of the harassed person may also suffer.

Harmful work environment

Psychological harassment makes the work environment harmful for the victim. Harassed persons may, for example, be isolated from colleagues due to the hostile verbal comments, acts or behaviours directed towards or concerning them.

These conditions include words, acts or gestures of a sexual nature.

Discrimination based on any of the grounds enumerated in section 10 of the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms (race, colour, sex, gender identity or expression, pregnancy, sexual orientation, civil status, age except as provided by law, religion, political convictions, language, ethnic or national origin, social condition, a handicap or the use of a means to palliate a handicap) may also constitute harassment.

For example, the following behaviours may be considered harassing conduct if they meet all the criteria of the law:

Behaviours that may constitute psychological harassment:

  • Bullying, cyberbullying, threats, isolation;
  • Offensive or defamatory remarks or gestures about a person or their work;
  • Verbal violence;
  • Denigration, belittlement.

Behaviours that may constitute sexual harassment:

Any form of unwanted attention or unwanted advances with a sexual connotation, for example:

  • insistent unwelcome social invitations,
  • looks, kisses or touching,
  • sexist insults, rude remarks;

Exposure to words, jokes or images with sexual connotations by any means, technological or otherwise.

Appendix 2 – Responsible persons appointed by the employer

The Quebec Writers’ Federation (QWF)

  • ensures that designated officials are properly trained and have the necessary tools at their disposal to process and follow up on the complaint or report;
  • releases working time so that the designated officials can perform the duties assigned to them.

The following persons are designated to act as the persons responsible for the application of the QWF Policy on the Prevention of Psychological or Sexual Harassment at Work and the handling of complaints:

Lori Schubert, QWF Executive Director
Julie Barlow, QWF President

These people’s primary responsibilities are to:

  • inform staff about the organization’s policy on psychological or sexual harassment;
  • intervene informally to try to resolve situations;
  • receive complaints and reports;
  • recommend actions to be taken to stop the harassment.

Commitment of the responsible persons

I hereby declare my commitment to abide by this policy and ensure that my intervention will be impartial, respectful and confidential.

[original signed by Lori Schubert, Executive Director and Julie Barlow]