Workers who have experienced sexual violence in the workplace need to understand their options and choices. Confidentiality and limits to confidentiality need to be made clear. The worker may report to a supervisor or other manager, a shop steward or other union representative, the health and safety committee or a specific representative designated to deal with reports of violence. The worker may also disclose to a co-worker without taking it further. Some workplaces may establish a confidential workplace hotline to assist with disclosures. The union should ensure that members have access to safe and supportive disclosure and reporting procedures.
People disclose experiences of sexual violence for many reasons. Some are looking for a formal resolution process. Others may want advice, resources or a listening ear. The survivor must be in control of their story. Always ask what kind of support is being requested. Remind members that disclosing will not automatically lead to a report being made. There is a difference between disclosing and reporting.
Your workplace might have specific limits to confidentiality which should be stated upfront to the person disclosing. There are two legal limits to confidentiality:
a) If someone discloses that a minor under the age of 18 is being harmed, or
b) If the individual, or someone they know, is in imminent fatal danger.[i]
If you are unsure of the legal limits to confidentiality in a situation, please speak to your national servicing representative who can access legal advice from CUPE.
Disclosing vs. Reporting
Disclosing does not require a person to file a formal complaint. It is making it known to someone that an incident of sexual violence. In certain circumstances, a person who receives a disclosure may be obliged to act to protect others from harm, as necessary.
Reporting is making a formal statement or complaint about someone or something to the necessary authority.
[i] This is based on relevant provincial and territorial child welfare legislation, mandatory duty to report bylaws and regulations.