TERRITORY OF AKWESASNE – The Mohawk Council of Akwesasne is proudly announcing that they have formally approved the Respect in the Workplace Policy (RIWP).  This new policy is meant to ensure that employees of MCA are treated with respect and are free from harassment, bullying and violence while working. Mohawk Council approved the policy by resolution on December 17, 2013 and it will officially go into effect on April 1, 2014.

“This policy has been in development for several years and we are happy to finally bring it to the employees of MCA and the community for implementation,” said MCA Human Resources Manager Lynn Roundpoint. “This policy affects not just our staff, but all those who provide services to or receive services from MCA staff as well.  We require that all our staff are treated with respect and this policy will ensure that we have a healthy, positive work environment at MCA.”

A team of staff members at MCA have collaborated over the policy’s development and wanted to ensure that it was written specifically for MCA, while meeting and exceeding standards put forth in the Canada Labour Code. The result is a document that has been laboured over and ultimately approved by Council.

Respect is defined in the policy as the following:

Respect is a fundamental principle that we as Onkwehonwe live by. Showing consideration, compassion, and treating others courteously and with kindness are values that are inherent in our culture. Being respectful means conducting one’s self with patience and with words and actions being reflected in a peaceful manner, while respecting the inherent rights, choices, speech and freedoms of all people.

Officially beginning on April 1, employees will be able to follow a formal process if they feel they are not being treated with respect or if they have a complaint against an employee for violations outlined in the RIWP.

Some actions that violate the policy are already well-known and avoided by most employees and community members, such as physical violence, sexual harassment, and bullying. However, some actions may be less obviously known as being discriminatory in nature or as an act of harassment or violence, such as gossiping, displaying offensive material in the workplace, sending offensive emails, making false allegations against an individual in work-related documents, purposely ignoring or excluding someone, making sarcastic remarks, deliberately withholding information a person needs to do their job, telling offensive jokes, or performing workplace pranks, to name just a few examples.

The RIWP team of writers/developers did their best to ensure that the document reflects Akwesasne culture and does not simply mirror a similar external document.  Discriminating against a person for their cultural background, making fun of a person’s clan or lack thereof, or making comments about a person’s membership or their place of origin are not permitted and violate the RIWP. 

Additionally, per the RIWP, an employee has the right to perform their job in a workplace that does not subject them to jokes and comments about their accent, weight, sexual orientation, family life, education, financial status, mannerisms, or appearance.

The RIWP has accompanying procedures that clearly outline how a complaint filed under the RIWP is processed.  Complaints against MCA or MCA staff that are not violations of the RIWP are filed in a separate format and follow different, pre-existing procedures.  Those complaints could be in regard to a program’s hours of operations, a mailbox that’s been knocked over by a snowplow, or disagreement about being denied employment, etc.  

MCA is reaching out to the entire community to share news of the new policy and what it requires from community members who obtain services at MCA. 

If an individual is receiving services from MCA, regardless of the location in which the staff member is delivering those services (at MCA buildings, in a person’s home, at an outside meeting, etc.), the non-employee is still required to treat the employee with respect. If an employee experiences harassment, violence or a lack of respect as defined in the policy from a community member or service provider/recipient, immediate action will be taken. The employee may be removed from the situation while management addresses the matter with the non-employee.  This could result in a temporary suspension of services or other consequences.

“Ultimately, we want to ensure the safety and well-being of our employees,” said MCA Director Sheree Bonaparte. “We are asking for everyone’s cooperation in achieving a harassment-free, gossip-free and violence-free workplace.”

Council chiefs voted not to be included in the policy, as they already follow the Ethical Conduct Law that outlines how they are to conduct themselves.

“We recognize that everyone needs and wants to have a workplace environment that has respect,” said Grand Chief Mike Kanentakeron Mitchell. “We are asking staff and the public who interact with our staff to become educated on this new policy. We ask that you treat each other with respect in the workplace and help ensure that MCA is a safe environment for our employees.”

More information about this policy will be distributed to the community throughout the education process between now and April 1.  If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Human Resources Manager Lynn Roundpoint or HR Generalist Christie Cook at 613-575-2250.