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Policy & Procedures

In this section you can access a complete copy of the Policy and read important highlights of its procedures, including key definitions and a summary of the levels of confidentiality and reporting requirements.


McMaster University is committed to fostering a respectful and inclusive organizational culture in which all members of the University community work, study, and live free of Discrimination and Harassment.

The University upholds a fundamental commitment to freedom of expression and association for all its members and to academic freedom for faculty. In exercising those freedoms, all its members are required to respect the rights and freedoms of others, including the right to freedom from Discrimination and Harassment.

Prevention of Discrimination and Harassment are matters of not only individual concern but of significance for the overall climate and welfare of the University community.

The University is committed to providing the policies, resources, and organizational structures required to support an environment free from Discrimination and Harassment.

Prevention through education is a fundamental aspect of the University’s commitment. As part of this commitment, the University provides a range of educational and community-building activities that foster understanding of human rights issues and of the harm incurred by their violation, and communicate the expectation of and support for a working, studying, and living environment free from Discrimination and Harassment.

Policy Summary

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Definition of Terms

Discrimination means an unjust or prejudicial form of unequal treatment, whether imposing extra burdens or denying benefits, based on any of the grounds articulated in the Human Rights Code. It may be intentional or unintentional. It may involve direct actions that are discriminatory on their face, or it may involve rules, practices or procedures that appear neutral, but disadvantage certain groups of people (systemic discrimination). Discrimination may take obvious forms, or it may happen in very subtle ways. Even if there are many factors affecting a decision or action, if Discrimination is one factor, then that is a violation of this Policy.
Harassment means engagement in a course of vexatious comment or conduct that is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome. "Vexatious" comment or conduct is comment or conduct made without reasonable cause or excuse. Harassment includes Sexual and/or Gender-Based Harassment and Workplace Sexual Harassment.
Poisoned Environment
A Poisoned Environment means an environment where harassing and/or discriminatory conduct is found to be sufficiently severe, intimidating, hostile, offensive, and/or pervasive to cause significant and unreasonable interference to a person’s study or work environment. A Poisoned Environment can interfere with and/or undermine work or academic performance and can cause emotional and psychological stress for some employees or students not experienced by other employees or students. As such, it results in unequal terms and conditions of employment or study and prevents or impairs full and equal enjoyment of employment or educational services, benefits, or opportunities. Although a person may not be the target of the conduct, a person may feel the effects of certain harassing or discriminatory conduct at their place of work or study.
Sexual and/or Gender-Based Harassment

Sexual and/or Gender-Based Harassment, including Workplace Sexual Harassment, means engaging in a course of vexatious comment against an individual because of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression where the course of comment or conduct is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome; or making a sexual solicitation or advance to an individual where the person making the solicitation or advance is in a position to confer, grant or deny a benefit or advancement to the individual and the person knows or ought reasonably to know that the solicitation or advance is unwelcome. Such Harassment may involve one incident or a series of incidents.

While allegations of Sexual Harassment are processed under the Sexual Violence Policy, there may be circumstances where the allegations in a Complaint may necessitate following the procedures under both this Policy and the Sexual Violence Policy. Where an individual files a Complaint that involves behaviour prohibited by this Policy, as well as behaviour more appropriately dealt with under the Sexual Violence Policy, the Complaint will be processed under the Sexual Violence Policy so as to ensure that the complainant has access to the specialized supports available under that Policy. However, any Investigation or hearing related to the Complaint will still determine if the complainant suffered unequal, discriminatory or harassing treatment in violation of this Policy, in addition to any findings related to the Sexual Violence Policy.

Guiding Principles

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Confidentiality and Reporting Requirements

Individuals may speak in confidence to an Intake Coordinator or any University office, subject to the provisions of this section and the limitations below. In such cases, only the minimum amount of information needed to address the matter and/or meet requirements will be disclosed.

Limitations to confidentiality exist when:

  1. an individual is at risk of harm to self;
  2. an individual is at risk of harming others;
  3. there are reasonable grounds to be concerned with risk of future violence or the safety of the University and/or broader community;
  4. disclosure is required by law or to comply with the Occupational Health and Safety Act or with human rights legislation;
  5. evidence of the disclosed incident of Discrimination or Harassment is available in the public realm (e.g. video shared publicly on social media); and/or
  6. where there is a need for notification in order to comply with the reporting requirements of regulatory bodies.

Some offices and Community Members have additional limitations to confidentiality because of their particular reporting requirements or professional obligations. For example:

a) those faculty and staff etc. who are regulated health care providers (such as those in Student Wellness Centre) are required to maintain the confidentiality of patient information disclosed during a medical interaction. These health care providers are not permitted to share information except in very limited circumstances, such as with the express permission of the patient, or if the health care provider believes that disclosure is necessary to eliminate or reduce a significant risk of serious harm to a person or group of persons, in accordance with their professional obligations; and b) those staff who are Special Constables in Security Services are required to investigate reports of domestic violence and to lay charges in all cases when there are reasonable grounds to believe such an offence has been committed, regardless of whether the individual wishes to have further involvement with the legal process.

Procedural limits to confidentiality may also occur if the University is subject to legal proceedings that, in the opinion of the Provost and Vice-President (Academic) or the Vice-President (Administration), (in consultation with the President), require the disclosure of information.

As part of the University’s internal responsibility to maintain an environment free from Discrimination and Harassment, information shall be shared on a need-to-know basis.

The Complainant will receive information about any sanctions/remedies taken by the University, within the constraints of relevant legislation. In all cases, information about any sanctions/remedies that have a direct impact on the Complainant will be provided to them.

Where required by a professional licensing body, the results of the Investigation may also be communicated to that professional licensing body.

The University's responsibility to address issues, incidents, and Complaints of Discrimination and/or Harassment extends to University-related activities such as the off campus experiential learning and working environment (including, but not limited to, off-campus coursework such as fieldwork, placement, clinical placement, internship and out-of-the classroom learning experiences). However, this responsibility exists independently from the off-site/placement or third party entity. In order to address such issues, incidents, and Complaints, the University may need to disclose information to the off-site entity on a need-to-know basis. This could include notifying the off-site entity of the outcome of the Investigation or coordinating a joint Investigation.