This document is still undergoing revision. The most recent update of the full text below is a member guide to harassment, downloadable in PDF as part of our new member orientation.






Workplace Harassment, the Faculty of Music Campaign, and Harassment in Union Spaces

The following material may be triggering for survivors. Even if you’re not able to get through it, feel free to reach out to Clara Chang, your Communications and Recording Secretary (, with questions or concerns about our anti-harassment resources and campaigns.

By now, you’ve seen the powerful open letter circulated by the U of T Faculty of Music Undergraduate Association, Music Graduate Students’ Association, and several of our colleagues and allies in Music, in which many survivors of and witnesses to sexual harassment and misconduct at U of T share their experiences, reflect on the culture of the Faculty of Music and the profession more generally, and demand meaningful action for a safer University—one that won’t tolerate harmful behaviour, and is more effective in supporting workers and students who come forward. We have high hopes for this letter and the broader campaign this year to ensure safer spaces for working and learning in Music, in which many of our members and allies are organizing together to win. 

We’ve been impressed this year by how sustained efforts from our colleagues and allies in Music have resulted in more worker consciousness and a sense of collective organizing, have provided psychological support to the community, and have directed a lot of public awareness towards this campaign. But we know that too often, violations that constitute workplace harassment or workplace sexual harassment don’t ultimately come to light: offending behaviour is tolerated without complaint, or else complaints are mishandled by departments and administrators. Your Executive Committee and Staff are preparing new anti-harassment resources and supports that will clarify your rights as a worker and member, and help you anticipate the complaint and grievance process. As an organization, we also hope to continually reevaluate our own internal practices and empower you to uphold our Local’s Equity Statement in your Union organizing. We hope these resources will make it easier for you to enjoy our community, express your rights, and work to improve the cultures of both the University and our labour movement.

If you have been targeted by harassment at work or have otherwise experienced an unsafe workplace, you can write directly to to discuss the situation and get advice on how to proceed. The University reporting system and its resources can be confusing to navigate; it can be difficult to find support and file a complaint on your own. Our Staff Reps are familiar with handling harassment grievances and can help you locate available and effective processes and resources, accompanying you throughout the process. There are multiple ways to register complaints and make improvements to your working conditions—both formal and informal routes—and we’ll do our best to support you based on what you need to feel safe. Your Union can communicate with the Employer on your behalf, represent you at meetings, and help prepare documentation, but nothing moves forward at any stage without your explicit consent.


What’s Happening in the Faculty of Music?

Workplace harassment, sexual harassment, and sexual violence affecting workers in the Faculty of Music are systemic, including violations in multiple workplaces and with potential to affect workers across the University, such as through broad violations of the Ontario Health and Safety Act (OHSA). It’s not too late to register your support via the open letter or share one of the articles about it with your network, to demonstrate that we’re watching the University’s actions closely.

As evidenced by the ongoing anti-harassment and anti-discrimination campaign in Music, there are collective approaches you can take to fight harassment with systemic roots—via the complaint process, organizing widely to put pressure on the University, or both. The campaign in Music is especially significant for us as an academic workers’ Local, given that gender-based harassment is an epidemic across adjacent fields in the academic humanities, touching areas such as literary studies and performance studies. These disciplines represent and reproduce exploitative cultures of elitism that have historically been white and male-dominated.

If you are interested in organizing your workplace against harassment, you can consult your Unit’s Vice-Chair as well as your Staff Organizer at When combined, member organizing and the grievance process can have a profound impact on how the University responds to harassment and how members’ rights can be expressed to make departments safer.


What is Workplace Harassment?

The technical definition of harassment that is grievable by the Union, and excerpted by our Collective Agreements in every Unit, is provided by the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA). Here, harassment is “engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct against a worker in a workplace that is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome.” The workplace also includes digital spaces such as email, teleconferencing, and course delivery and messaging platforms, that form the basis of work-related communication.

Collective Agreements in certain Units include more specific violations, such as sections on discrimination, bullying, and personal harassment. Every agreement has a section dedicated to sexual harassment and violence. We encourage you to find the definitions of harassment that your own Collective Agreement contains. This particular document has a special focus on workplace harassment and sexual harassment and violence. If your rights according to the OHSA and your Collective Agreement are being violated, this is grounds for a workplace harassment complaint and a harassment grievance. Get in touch with us at for support.

However, outside the scope of this narrow definition of harassment that occurs at the workplace proper, the Union can often provide support to members who are harassed outside of work by students or colleagues, or harassed on the basis of their work by other individuals, and thereby made to feel unsafe. If ever you’re made to feel unsafe at work or harassment affects your ability to work, whether or not it technically meets the grounds for a grievance under the OHSA, it’s worth reaching out to your Union for support and to determine what options and resources are available to you.

If you are a Unit 1 member and graduate student being harassed by your academic supervisor, your Collective Agreement in the section on Supervisory Conflict entitles you to direct consultation with Labour Relations and the Vice-President, Human Resources & Equity, accessible through your Union. Solutions might include changing supervisors, switching offices, or being granted extensions. If you are a student, you might also raise a complaint with the Vice-Provost, Students in response to harassment in other campus spaces.


Refusal of Unsafe Work and Ceasing Contact with Harassers

If you are experiencing harassment, you might need to stop work immediately to protect your health and safety. In order to also protect your workers’ rights—such as to avoid discipline and fully protect yourself financially—the situation needs to meet the threshold for a formal work refusal, according to provincial guidelines. To initiate this process, you need to email notice to your immediate supervisor that you are stopping work on the grounds that it is unsafe. We’d encourage you to also copy your Union to the email (at In addition, your Union reps can contact Labour Relations on your behalf, as soon as possible, and request that alternative work be found or other arrangements made so you won’t have to engage with the harasser.

In all Units, Collective Agreement language provides explicitly for cases of sexual harassment where you intend to cease contact with the harasser, and ensures that requests for separation in an employment relationship will be granted without penalty. For instance, from the Unit 2 Collective Agreement:

Where an employee believes he/she has been the victim of sexual harassment, he/she may request, through the Union, to discontinue contact with the alleged harasser. Every effort shall be made to separate the parties in their employment relationship, without the complainant suffering any penalty. The Employer and the Union agree to treat requests to discontinue contact as confidential to those directly involved.

In Unit 4, this proviso about the separation of harasser and complainant is also applicable to “bullying/harassment” more generally.


Making a Safety Plan, and Personal Health and Safety

To immediately create a campus safety plan, a starting point is the Community Safety Office, where our main point of contact on campus has been Anita Rizzello, Community Safety Office Case Manager, at (phone: 416-978-5022). This office can also help you file a Code of Student Conduct complaint and a Campus Police report, should you choose to. Your Union can represent you in contacting this office as well as at meetings to create a safety plan.

Members in Units 1, 3, and 5 also have access to the Employee & Family Assistance Program, which offers confidential short-term counselling. If you work in Unit 1, you can access short-term counselling or crisis support at U of T Health and Wellness if you are a student, and can also, even if you aren’t a student, claim expenses up to $2500 per year for psychological services on top of whatever amount your base plan covers through the GSU, UTSU, SCSU, or APUS, or your Post-Doctoral Fellowship (with a counsellor holding a Master’s degree in Social Work, a Clinical Psychologist, or a Registered Psychotherapist). Members of Unit 2 have access to a Health Care Spending Account (HCSA) and Top-Up Plan identical to that of Unit 1 members. Members of other Units (3-5) have access to an HCSA that can cover expenses incurred by services from a professional therapist (Units 3-4) or psychologist (Unit 5).


Filing a Workplace Harassment Complaint or Grievance, and Possible Deadlines

Deadlines for when an official complaint can be filed after harassment has occurred generally follow a two-stage process—except in Unit 4, or in cases of sexual harassment, which are covered in sections directly below. The two usual stages are roughly equivalent to the steps of a typical grievance process, in which a written complaint is filed first at Step 1, at the Department or Faculty level, then is finally escalated to either the College President or the Vice President, Human Resources & Equity.


  1. First, you file a Workplace Harassment Complaint attesting that a violation has occurred. Here, the process is defined with reference to U of T’s Human Resources Guideline on Civil Conduct (with several examples listed on pages 3 and 4), which deploys the OHSA definition of workplace harassment above. Signing and submitting this file will trigger a countdown period in which the University has a 60-day time limit in which to conduct an internal investigation if the complaint is deemed to be within the scope of its harassment policy, and then, if a violation is found, take corrective action. From the HR Guideline linked above:  “If your complaint alleges a violation of this Guideline, you will be advised of the type of investigation that will be undertaken, the scope of the investigation, and the process that will be followed.” … “You and any respondent(s) will be advised in writing in a timely manner of the results of an investigation and any corrective action that has been taken or will be taken as a result of the investigation, although you may not be advised of the details of any sanction against any other party.”

    Regarding actions the University might take in response to a complaint, the HR Guideline from above continues, “Generally speaking, if a complaint is found to be substantiated it will result in some remedial action involving the respondent. The University may request or require that one or more of the parties participate in processes including the following: training, coaching, mediation, or facilitation.”

  2. After a written complaint has been filed and sixty days have elapsed, if you are dissatisfied with the outcome above, or else if the Employer has failed to respond, you can then file a grievance attesting that a violation of your Collective Agreement has occurred. The grievance will be filed directly with Human Resources & Equity in Units 1, 3, and 5, the Principal of Victoria University in Unit 2, or the President of USMC in Unit 4–the equivalent of either Step 2 or Step 3, depending on whether the faculty contains one or multiple departments.

Your Union reps will ensure that your documentation at the first stage is legible as a formal complaint and that this timeline has been initiated, to ensure that your rights to this process are being fully expressed. Note that the time limit to file a grievance is typically 40 working days in Units 1-3 and 20 working days in Unit 5, and that according to the HR Guideline on Civil Conduct on filing a Workplace Harassment Complaint, “You have a responsibility to bring your complaint forward as soon as reasonably possible, so that it can be dealt with in a timely manner.”

In Unit 4, the language of the Collective Agreement protects against “bullying and personal harassment” in the workplace, “defined as a course of vexatious comment or conduct that is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome” (4.05), and here, a grievance can be immediately submitted to the Program Director or, if none exists, to the Dean, and the time limit is six months. If the harasser is your immediate supervisor, the time limit is twelve months.


Filing a Workplace Sexual Harassment Report or Grievance

In Unit 1, we recently bargained to expand survivors’ rights such that there’s no longer any time limit to file a grievance after sexual harassment or sexual violence. In all other Units, the time limit to file a grievance after sexual harassment or violence is six months after the incident occurred, or twelve months if the harasser is your immediate supervisor. The internal route for making a formal report outside of the grievance process doesn’t in these cases interact with or postpone the schedule for filing a grievance, except in Unit 2. In all other Units, a report is filed with a designated person on staff at the Sexual Violence Prevention & Support Centre, and it’s possible to file a grievance right away and with or without filing such a report. In Unit 2, by filing a grievance after sexual harassment, you forfeit the right to also file an internal complaint under U of T’s Sexual Harassment Policy (section 4:05(c)). Your Union can help you strategize to determine which route is likely to be most effective under the circumstances.

According to U of T’s Policy on Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment, “A determination that a Member of the University Community has committed an act of Sexual Violence may result in a number of possible outcomes, including the imposition of education and training, corrective action such as relocation or change of duties or supervision, reprimand, suspension, termination or expulsion.”


Forms of Redress After Filing a Grievance

Several types of remedy are possible through the grievance and arbitration process that are beyond the scope of remedies that tend to be offered if a workplace harassment complaint or sexual harassment report is filed. In terms of University policy and practice, remedies after filing a complaint or report are more focused on the harasser than they are on addressing violations of your rights to safe work and a safe workplace. Where a formal complaint proves ineffective, a grievance can seek to further compel the offender to cease and desist any harassing behaviour, and if complaints are advanced far enough, might even work to correct broader departmental practices and prevent future offenses. The University might also be obliged to deliver a monetary settlement to you as complainant. In practice, many several different variables affect outcomes in the grievance and arbitration process, and every case has unique attributes. Whether any particular offense meets the threshold of workplace harassment at the University, and what means of redress are available, depend on previous jurisprudence, case law, and other grievances that members have filed in the past. The harasser’s history at the workplace, such as previous discipline, will also be taken into account. Your Union rep will work with you to determine what particular demands will improve your working conditions, and what redress would be meaningful and possible, on a case-by-case basis.


Why File a Formal Report or Complaint in Addition to or Instead of Filing a Grievance?

The forms of redress offered by the University’s internal complaint and reporting processes tend to be more harasser-centred than survivor-centred, and the interventions taken are ultimately determined by the University unilaterally. However, giving the University the opportunity to “exhaust any applicable internal steps to respond to a situation” may be a preferred option in that it is less immediately confrontational than the formal grievance route, and does better to keep the matter confidential. An investigation might also be helpful and provide a basis for further action. However, often after these reports and complaints are filed, the University is slow to respond and/or investigation results disclosed to the Union are uninformative, and the Union is not made aware of the action, if any, that has been taken to correct or discipline a harasser.


Exceptional Circumstances, e.g., Administrative Mishandling, Expired Union Membership

There are certainly exceptional circumstances in which one would hope that the timeline for filing a grievance or registering a complaint would be longer than what the Collective Agreements or the HR & Equity Guideline have provided for, and in which the University should be compelled to respond to survivors meaningfully and even provide redress after a lot of time has passed or after your political membership in the Union has expired–especially if your complaint has been mishandled at any level. Please get in touch with your Union and learn about your options, even if you’re no longer a member.


Financial Support

If experiencing harassment or filing a harassment complaint causes you financial hardship, you might be eligible for funding or an interest-free loan through your Union through the Unit 1 Sexual and Domestic Violence Survivors Fund and/or the Grievor’s Support Fund, available to all members (on page 27 of the Policy Compendium). Please contact your Secretary Treasurer at to learn more about Union funding available to survivors.


Harassment in Union Spaces

The project of cultivating safer organizing spaces is critical to the future of our movement, and several task forces are at work on it simultaneously at the National, Provincial, and Local levels of CUPE. Please write to us if you have any ideas or suggestions for this work in our own Local. In the meantime, CUPE National has a formal adjudication process for supporting member vs. member complaints, outlined in Appendix F of the CUPE National Constitution. This process was updated at the last CUPE National Convention, as a result of a lot of hard work from members across the country. This past year, CUPE Ontario also released a new resource on sexual violence and harassment in union spaces, including provincial and national events.

As a Local, we’re working to further develop policies and practices that will actualize the hopes for a more welcoming, collegial, and respectful organizing culture that we’ve written into our Equity Statement, and to do everything we can to support survivors. At meetings, the Equity Officer has the prerogative to pause a meeting and issue warnings or corrections if harassment or other violations of the Equity Statement occur, and recommend that the chair of the meeting remove an offending member from the meeting. We encourage you to make contact with the Equity Officer to raise concerns if ever meetings begin to feel unsafe, i.e., intimidating, hostile, or discriminatory.