Vivette O Donnell's Views on RTE's new policy document on bullying.

Various criticisms of the new policy spring to mind, not least that
they seem not to have consulted any expert this time, not me, not ABC [Mona's
group], not Dr. Eileen Doyle, not RTE staff; they still do not give any names
asked for by me in the Bullying 1,2,3 such as who is going to carry out
training, who is on the panel of independent chairpersons, who will be contact
persons, when will the new policy take effect, who can use it - can those
dissatisfied with the previous investigation go to appeal stage now.

RTÉ Policy on the Prevention of Harassment, Sexual Harassment and Bullying
February 1st, 2001
Note: This updates Section 21 of Chapter 9 in the Policy & Procedures Manual

Harassment | Sexual Harassment | Bullying | Responsibilities
What To Do
Designated Contact Persons
Complaints Procedure
Informal Procedure | Formal Procedure | Representation |
Investigative Process | Complaint Upheld | Complaint Not Upheld |
Monitoring and Review

Page 1 Introduction

RTÉ has a duty of care towards its staff, and to those providing services who are under the control of RTÉ. A safe and healthy work environment in which all employees are treated with dignity and respect, free from harassment or bullying is a central objective for RTÉ. All employees have an individual responsibility to treat their colleagues with dignity and respect. This policy supports the objective by making staff aware of what constitutes harassment, sexual harassment and bullying, and by providing a procedural framework for dealing with complaints.

Due to the sensitive nature of the issues involved and to protect reputations, the complainant, the person against whom the allegation is made, and other individuals involved in the procedures are required to maintain confidentiality. RTÉ is subject to the Freedom of Information Act, and therefore records may be subject to F.O.I. requests for disclosure. The F.O.I. Act allows exemptions for records given in confidence or which contain personal information. Therefore it is RTÉ's intention to invoke these exemptions if a third party request is made under F.O.I. Documents which relate to cases under this policy and its procedures are contained within the personnel file of individuals and therefore cannot be released on foot of an F.O.I. request other than with the knowledge and prior agreement of the individual.

Added to all that are the disimprovements in the policy including: page 1 re Fof I, we
need it spelled out that the person making the complaint should get copies of
all documents relating to their case, in particular to all documents pertaining
to the investigation by the investigative board;

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Harassment is defined as any act or conduct which is unwelcome and could reasonably be regarded as offensive, humiliating or intimidating on any of the nine discriminatory grounds, including spoken words, gestures, or the production, display or circulation of written material or pictures in the workplace or in the course of employment.

The nine discriminatory grounds in the Employment Equality Act, 1998 are: gender, marital status, family status, sexual orientation, religious belief, age, disability, race, membership of the travelling community.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment includes all unwelcome actions that could reasonably be regarded as offensive, humiliating or intimidating, sexually, or otherwise on the gender ground. These include acts of physical intimacy, spoken words, gestures, or the production, display or circulation of written material or pictures, or requests for sexual favours.

page 2, it is not an improvement that there has been cut from the original policy: "acutely
distressing....and will not be tolerated",

Page 3 Bullying

Bullying is defined as repeated aggressive or intimidating behaviour of a verbal, psychological or physical nature conducted by an individual or group, against others. It is usually a calculated process over time and can take place at any level within the organisation.

Examples of bullying include personal insults, name calling, public humiliation, instantaneous rages, oppressive delegation of duties, isolation of individuals, maligning or ridiculing a person, verbal abuse. Bullying denies the individual the right to a safe work environment and is totally unacceptable. However, an isolated incident of the behaviour described in this definition may be an affront to dignity at work and is to be taken seriously, but as a once-off incident is not considered to be bullying.

Justifiable criticism of an individual's work or performance, which could be regarded as reasonable, is not to be construed as bullying. Disagreement on professional issues or review of an individual's conduct or performance does not of itself constitute bullying.

page 3 does not say how isolated incidents are taken seriously and how they link with the complaint of more incidents which do count as bullying - presumably the first incident should be
reported and it should be said that there is monitoring as the first may be the
first of a series and there should be cross-referencing as there might be a lot
of first incidents as far as the targets are concerned but with the same bully
being complained about - how is this being checked in this policy?,

also on page 3, some performance appraisals and interview panel reports include
personal insults - are they covered by this policy under personal insults?,
also page 3, it is regrettable that the part about criticism which could be
regarded as reasonable has not been reworded now that we know that in practice
this backs up opinions which a normal outsider would not regard as reasonable,
the implicit reference to the Labour Court case re performance reviews is
absolutely reprehensible, unacceptable and unforgivable,

Page 4 Responsibilities

Under Safety and Health legislation, RTÉ has a duty of care towards its employees in ensuring a safe and healthy work environment. All employees have an individual responsibility to treat their colleagues with dignity and respect. In addition there is a particular onus on those in supervisory or managerial roles to ensure that the workplace is free from any form of harassment or bullying.

As in all matters of discipline, it is primarily the responsibility of line management to ensure that the workplace is kept free of harassment and bullying. Management is strongly committed to this policy and will deal with all legitimate complaints in a supportive and expeditious manner. In dealing with complaints, managers must be aware of the need to keep in regular contact with the parties involved.

page 4 the word legitimate is added, who decides what is legitimate - can legal opinion be
appealed to?, the word "sensitively" has been removed, this is regrettable as
more sensitivity is needed,

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If you are subjected to harassment or bullying you can seek advice, assistance and support from your line manager/supervisor, the Personnel Division, your Divisional Head, Designated Contact Persons, Trade Union or Management Association representative. The Staff Welfare Officer or the Equality Adviser is also available to offer advice and assistance to individual employees or to supervisors or colleagues on behalf of a staff member subjected to harassment or bullying.

Designated Contact Persons

A panel of designated contact persons are available to provide confidential advice, assistance and guidance in an objective manner with a view to resolving complaints of harassment, sexual harassment and bullying. Their role is to act as impartial mediators who will advise the complainant as to possible courses of action. Contact persons will discuss cases in confidence and will not divulge any information without the agreement of the complainant. Under the informal procedures an employee can request the contact person to approach the person complained of with a view to resolving the complaint.

The contact person will assist the complainant in formulating a formal written complaint to the Employee Relations & Conditions Dept. if necessary. The contact persons will have no direct role in the investigative procedures.

page 5 the purpose of RTE's policy is removed from previous pol., the role and work of the designated contact persons is complex and those taking this position will require a great deal of trust on the part of staff going to them for assistance - that trust depends on information which
has not been supplied as yet.

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Non-formal interventions and processes for resolving issues of harassment, sexual harassment and bullying are preferable as they reduce the anxiety and the possible long-term damage to relationships. These interventions require the goodwill of all involved in working towards a genuine and lasting resolution.

The Informal Procedure

Where possible the informal procedure should be used, as the person may not have realised the effect of their behaviour on the recipient. If an incident or incidents occur which you find offensive, intimidating or humiliating you should:

  1. request the person to stop the offending behaviour, either directly or indirectly through Designated Contact Person, explaining that his/her behaviour is unwelcome and offensive, intimidating or humiliating, as appropriate.
  2. keep a record of the conduct including dates, nature of the incident, your response and any witnesses.
  3. Request the intervention of your line manager if appropriate.

Page 6 re goodwill, this is not forthcoming from adult serial bullies by
definition. "stop the offending behaviour" - does this mean you say Stop
nit-picking or do you say Stop bullying me or, if more appropriate, Stop
bullying us/them/her/him? I believe this is an attempt to split each complaint
into different behaviours and avoid the term bullying. 3) has been changed in
line with other changes, just note "intervention if appropriate" now instead of
"seek advice or assistance"

Page 7

Where a line manager receives a complaint of harassment, sexual harassment or bullying s/he must attempt to resolve the issue locally, or refer the matter to the Personnel Division.
The line manager will meet with the complainant to seek details, and to ensure that s/he has a clear understanding of the complaint. Where the line manager is of the view that the issue should be referred to the Personnel Division s/he should inform the complainant and the person against whom the complaint is made of this.
Alternatively, if the line manager decides to attempt to resolve the issue locally, s/he will meet with the person against whom the complaint has been made, and inform him/her of the nature of the complaint, whether it is written or verbal and will provide him/her with all the details. The line manager will invite the person to respond within two days. On receipt of this response the line manager will further decide if the matter can be resolved locally, or to refer the matter to the Personnel Division. The line manager should ensure that both the complainant and the person against whom the complaint is made, have copies of RTÉ's Policy and Procedures on the Prevention of Harassment, Sexual Harassment and Bullying.
page 7 is all new and it is a pity is does not cover what to do if the perceived bully says s/he will sue at the first hint that a complaint may be made, also re ALL the details - many targets do not
wish full medical and counseling details nor the ill-effects of the workplace
bullying on their family to be provided to the perceived bully as that entails
a painful invasion of their privacy, yet it is pertinent to the investigative

Also on page 7, "the line manager will further decide if ..."- any
target of bullying wants to have the right to take the decision as to whether
the matter goes to Personnel etc.

No disciplinary action will be taken against the person against whom a complaint is made, where she/he co-operates fully with the informal procedure, and it is being invoked for the first time.

RTÉ must reserve the right to implement the formal procedure if this is necessary to resolve the issue.

Page 8 para 1, same as before and still not
satisfactory - does "full cooperation" include apology and making amends and
guarantees of absolutely no bullying in future? - that is required, it is
necessary, it must be stated in the policy in these clear terms.

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Page 9 The Formal Procedure

If the offending behaviour does not stop and/or you wish to make a formal complaint you can do so by putting the complaint in writing to the Senior Executive, Employee Relations & Conditions. A Designated Contact Person will help you formulate your complaint if required. The person against whom the complaint is made, is also entitled to refer the issue to Employee Relations and Conditions Department.

The written complaint should be as specific as possible, stating dates, names, incidents as appropriate. You should be aware that this document will be an important source of information for the Investigative Board. On receipt of a written complaint of harassment or bullying, Employee Relations & Conditions Department will establish an investigative board consisting of one manager, a TUG nominee and an independent chairperson to investigate the complaint. Any persons appointed will have the necessary training to ensure the complaint is fully investigated in an independent and objective manner. The investigation will be carried out sensitively with due regard for the rights of both the complainant and the person against whom the complaint is made.

Page 9, Names should be included in a policy, viz. the senior exec.,empl. relns.
& condns., at present this is Michael O'Brien. More important,para 2, the word
"specific" has been added, this is not an improvement as it is the behaviour
and the atmosphere that are or are not bullying, the negative feelings,
pertaining to injustice and persecution, between episodes distinguish bullying
from other sorts of unpleasant incidents. Further, it is important that the
persons on the investigative board should be people that the people going
before them feel they can trust neither to bully nor to support bullies or
bullying behaviour. We should be told the names of those at present on the
panel for selection to the investigative boards, this is particularly important
re the independent chairpersons - in spite of repeated requests we have not
been given even one name as possibly going to be an independent chairperson,
and enquiries among suitably qualified people have drawn a blank. What are the
criteria regarding the "necessary training"? And it is not enough to be
"independent and objective", it is necessary to be "well-informed, fair and
just". Natural justice means that one cannot be judge in one's own case; in
fact given the loss of trust in RTE,any discernible conflict of interest must
be avoided.

Page 10 Representation

RTÉ' s procedures do not preclude individuals seeking legal advice. However, the procedures set out here involve an internal employee relations process, which entitle both the complainant and the person complained of, to representation specifically by a colleague or trade union/Management Association representative. Legal representation is not permitted.

In cases of sexual harassment at least one of the investigators will be of the same sex as the complainant.

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Investigative Process

On receipt of the written complaint an investigation will be set up within 10 working days. The Investigative Board will conduct and complete the investigation within a further 15 working days. Where this is not possible, both parties will be advised of the circumstances by the Investigative Board.
The Investigative Board will separately interview the complainant and the individual complained of. The interviews shall be formal and will be noted. The person against whom the complaint has been made, will be provided with a copy of the written complaint, and will be asked to provide a response.

Page 10, para 1, it should be clearly stated that everyone is
entitled to be accompanied to meetings/hearings by a friend of their choice -
this is a supportive friend and not a representative. It is regrettable that
"legal representation is not permitted". A statement explaining this condition
is necessary to restore confidence in the policy.

Also,para 3, it is necessary to give examples of the kinds of circumstances and reasons which would permit delays in completing the investigation; this need arises from the inordinate
delays that are common in processing bullying complaints in many schools and

Also, para 4, "noted" - is this to be full and accurate notes using
shorthand or audio-tape and typed up verbatim? Any changes in wording can have
the effect of changing the meaning of what has been said. Also, "asked to
provide a response" - "required" would be more appropriate given the serious
nature of a formal complaint and the official nature of a board with an
independent chairperson.

Page 11

Confidentiality will be maintained throughout the investigation into the allegation. Where it is necessary to interview witnesses, the importance of confidentiality will be emphasised. It will be explained to all parties that any breach of confidence would constitute misconduct under RTÉ's Disciplinary Procedures and would be subject to disciplinary action.

A Personnel/Employee Relations Executive will be assigned to each case to ensure that the timeframes and integrity of the procedures are maintained.

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The Investigative Board will meet with witnesses who in their opinion may have a useful contribution to make in establishing the facts of a particular case. All parties will be advised of the intention to interview witnesses.


Findings of the Investigative Board will be forwarded to the complainant, the person against whom the complaint was made, and the Senior Executive, Employee Relations & Conditions.

Page 11, there is a need to address what happens if anyone connected to the
investigation is victimised or threatened, especially witnesses. Also, it is
nessary to state clearly what happens if incorrect or misleading information is
supplied - especially if there are untrue allegations in the response of the
perceived bully. Para 2, how will s/he do this "ensuring"? Para3, "The I.B.
will meet with witnesses who in their opinion may have ...". This is especially
unacceptable given the recent Labour Court hearing sought because witnesses had
not been interviewed in a long-drawn out case in another organisation. If the
complainant, the accused, a witness, or any other interested party, wish
witnesses to be interviewed then these witnesses should be interviewed. Para4,
Will the findings be in full or a short summary and will the line of reasoning
that leads to the results and recommendations be made clear?

Page 12 Appeals

An independent appeals procedure will be established. The complainant and the person against whom the complaint was made may lodge an appeal where there is clear evidence of a procedural defect which affected the outcome of the findings.

Action on Findings

Complaint upheld

a)   The Senior Executive Employee Relations & Conditions and the appropriate line manager will decide what action ( including disciplinary action) is to be taken. Before any decision is taken, the person against whom the complaint was upheld, will be given the opportunity to meet with the Senior Executive Employee Relations & Conditions and the line manager. He/she is entitled to representation as set out above. S/he may appeal the subsequent decision to the Managing Director, Organisation & Development.

b)   A complaint of harassment or bullying may, following investigation, result in management taking disciplinary action including warning, suspension, dismissal etc.

Page 12, para 1, who will hear an appeal? how clear and to whom and what kind
of defects will decide whether there is "clear evidence of a procedural
defect"? Give examples.
At present the Managing Director, Org. & Dev. is Liam Miller.

Page 13

Alternatively, retraining, counselling and a period of performance monitoring and appraisal may be more appropriate. On completion of a satisfactory performance appraisal the issue of disciplinary action may not arise.

c)   In certain instances a transfer may be considered appropriate and feasible and, in such cases, it is the person against whom the complaint was upheld who will be relocated. The complainant shall not be transferred except at his/her own request.

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Complaint not upheld
Where a complaint is not upheld, no action shall be taken against the complainant, provided the allegation was made in good faith. If, however it was found by the Investigative Board that the complaint was brought vexatiously, it will be treated as misconduct under RTÉ's Disciplinary Procedures.


Details of this policy and the procedures to be followed in such cases will be included in induction and other training programmes for staff. Designated Contact Persons will receive training on this policy and its procedures; mediation techniques and on the formulating of complaints.

Page13, "a satisfactory performance appraisal" by whom? if by one of the
accused bullies or their supporters then this is not acceptable. Let us hope
that c) will be followed in future.
para5, WHO will train the designated contact persons, when and will they pass a
test of suitability after training?

Page 14

A panel of Investigation Board members will receive training on this policy and its procedures and on investigation techniques. There will be joint training initiatives for management and staff on issues of dignity and respect at work.

Monitoring and Review

This policy and its procedures will be monitored and reviewed on a regular basis to ensure its satisfactory operation. The Chairperson of the Investigative Board will prepare an annual report for the Director of Personnel, summarising the issues dealt with and the on-going effectiveness of this policy and its procedures.
The procedures will be jointly reviewed by RTÉ and the TUG to determine their continuing success. The Equality Adviser will be available to assist this process. The issue of dignity at work/issues of harassment may be placed on the agenda for Local Partnership meetings, but will be discussed without individual cases being highlighted.
Any views which you may have on how this policy may be made more effective are welcome.

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Page14, Who are on the panel and who will train them and verify their
suitability? Ditto re staff.
para 3, good that there will be an annual report on the policy - a report for
the previous policy would be very useful at this stage to avoid some of the
same pitfalls.
para4, what "success"? Who is The Equality Adviser? It is pointless discussing
bullying at partnership meetings if the basic facts of individual cases cannot
be discussed - discussion needs to be rooted in reality.
Last paragraph remains unchanged: "Any views which you may have on how this
policy may be made more effective are welcome". What does this mean? Will
useful suggestions be adopted and acted upon? Is "effective" intended to mean,
"effective in resolving bullying problems fairly and speedily and in
establishing and maintaining a pleasant, productive, bully free environment
conducive to excellence of work performance"? If so, it is strongly recommended
that this is plainly stated, in those or similar words.

In Wed.'s Dark Angel, a character dealt effectively with a problem by shooting him dead. Meanings need to be made clear and explicit. We are aware of current bad practice
world-wide.We have learnt to assume the worst and have a high prediction
success rate.

Vivette O Donnell

01 2887976

Contact Person for Bully Watch RTE