Customer Code of Conduct
Customer Code of Conduct
1. Policy Statement
Halton Region aims to provide exemplary services by promoting safety, respect and inclusion through equitable and accessible customer service. This allows all customers to feel welcome at Halton Region’s facilities and sites.
While Halton Region maintains these standards for its employees, it is equally expected that every customer will maintain a mutual level of respect in their interactions and communications with employees.
The purpose of this policy is to encourage positive, safe, and supportive conduct between customers and Halton Region. This policy intends to address the various service needs of customers while also acknowledging the need to protect employees, members of Council, volunteers and residents of Halton Region from unacceptable customer conduct, disruptive behaviour and/or frivolous or vexatious actions.
Halton Region is dedicated to providing a positive, safe equitable, and respectful atmosphere to ensure positive communications and interactions occur with customers and members of the public. Equally, all customers are responsible for behaving in a manner to promote a respectful environment that can be shared by everyone. Where this policy conflicts with another department specific policy and/or procedure, that policy shall prevail.
This policy applies to all forms of customer service (including but not limited to in-person, online, social media, electronic, print and verbal communications) provided by employees to customers, and appropriate conduct by customers in interactions with employees (e.g., requesting information or service, filing a complaint or compliment, or providing feedback).
4. Definitions and Acronyms
“CAO” means the Chief Administrative Officer for Halton Region or their designate.
“commissioner” means the head of a department of Halton Region.
“Council” means the council of Halton Region.
“Criminal Code” means Canada’s Criminal Code R.S.C., 1985, c. C-46.
“customer” means persons including, but not limited to, residents, individuals, businesses, not-for-profit organizations, stakeholders, community and corporate organizations, and members of the public in general that interact with Halton Region or anyone working or acting on behalf of Halton Region.
“discrimination” means any form of unequal treatment that causes harm based wholly or in part on at least one ground under the Ontario Human Rights Code. Some examples include imposing extra burdens on certain employees or denying benefits to certain employees or customers. Discrimination comes in many forms, including direct, indirect, systemic, institutional, structural and adverse. 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. 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, it is a violation of this policy. Discrimination may be an isolated event affecting one person or a group of persons similarly situated, or may manifest itself through harassment or abuse of authority. Some examples of discrimination may include, but are not limited to, the following:
- degrading words used to describe a person or a group of people;
- unwelcome remarks, jokes, innuendoes, or taunting about a person’s racial or ethnic background, colour, place of birth, citizenship, ancestry, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression; or,
- refusing to work with an employee of Halton Region because of the person’s family status or creed;
“disruptive behaviour” means behaviour that interferes with the normal operation of Halton Region or which interferes with another customer’s ability to use and/or enjoy regional physical or digital spaces. This includes, but is not limited to excessive noise and the use of language or behaviours that harass, discriminate or compromise the dignity of an employee or customer(s).
“employee” means all categories of Halton Region staff members including statutory officers of the corporation, full-time, part-time, casual, temporary and seasonal employees (except as otherwise noted in this policy) as well as any other individual working or acting on behalf of Halton Region including but not limited to contractors, consultants, volunteers, students, and agents of Halton Region.
“frivolous” means a complaint that is reasonably perceived by Halton Region to be without reasonable or probable cause, without merit or substance, and/or trivial.
“Halton Region” means The Regional Municipality of Halton.
“harassment” means a course of comments or actions that are known, or ought reasonably to be known, to be unwelcome. It can involve words or actions that are known or should be known to be offensive, embarrassing, humiliating, demeaning or unwelcome, based on a ground of discrimination identified by this policy. Harassment can occur based on any of the grounds under the Ontario Human Rights Code. Some examples of harassment may include, but are not limited to, the following:
- nicknames, remarks, jokes or innuendos related to a person’s race, gender identity, gender expression, sex, disability, sexual orientation, creed, age, or any other ground;
- posting or circulating offensive pictures, graffiti or materials, whether in print form or via e-mail or other electronic means;
- singling out a person for humiliation or to be demeaned, teased or the subject of jokes because they are a member of an Ontario Human Rights Code-protected group; or,
- making comments that ridicule a person because of characteristics that are related to a ground under the Ontario Human Rights Code. For example, this could include comments about a person’s dress, personal qualities, speech or other practices that may be related to their sex, race, gender identity or creed.
If a person does not explicitly object to harassing behaviour, or appears to be going along with it, this behaviour could still be defined as harassment under the Ontario Human Rights Code.
Depending on the circumstances, one incident could be significant or substantial enough to constitute harassment. It may be deliberate, unsolicited and/or coercive. A reasonable action taken by an employee relating to a customer interaction, request and/or complaint is not harassment.
“Local Municipalities” means the towns and city that make up Halton Region. These include the City of Burlington, the Town of Halton Hills, the Town of Milton and the Town of Oakville.
“management” means the employees in positions of supervisors, managers, directors or commissioners.
“Ontario Human Rights Code” means the Ontario Human Rights Code, R.S.O. 1990, c. H.19.
“unacceptable customer conduct” means any action by a customer, which because of its nature or frequency, has a disproportionate and unreasonable impact on Halton Region, Council, employees, other customers, services, time and/or resources.
“vexatious” means a complaint that is frivolous and which is pursued in a manner that is reasonably perceived by Halton Region to be malicious, embarrass or harass the recipient, or is a nuisance.
“violence” means physical force or any other means that may cause injury or damage to a person or property and includes, but is not limited to, the following:
- Verbal assaults
- Threats and/or attempts to intimidate
- Throwing of articles in a deliberate or aggressive manner
- Aggressive approaches to another individual or group
- Physical striking of another individual
- Attempts to incite violence in others
- Racial or ethnic slurs
- Damage to or theft of property
- Abusive language
- Sexual assault
- Other illicit sexual activities, including indecent exposure and masturbation
- Stalking or stalking-like behaviour
- Any of the above behaviours occurring via Halton Region’s digital services or social media platforms
Employees and anyone working or acting on behalf of Halton Region are expected to conduct themselves in a respectful manner. Equally, all customers are responsible for behaving in a manner to promote a respectful environment that can be shared by everyone. Customers are expected to be respectful in their communications and their conduct when dealing with Halton Region.
Discrimination, harassment, violence, unacceptable customer conduct, disruptive behaviour and/or frivolous or vexatious actions by customers will not be tolerated towards employees, members of Council, or any other individual working or acting on behalf of Halton Region. This may include but is not limited to such things as yelling, intimidation, insulting, issuing threatening comments, stalking, assaulting, or any other prohibited actions at any time, for any reason. These actions will not be tolerated and will be addressed directly and promptly by management.
5.1 Unacceptable Customer Conduct
Halton Region will not tolerate any unacceptable customer conduct. Some examples of what might be considered to be unacceptable customer conduct are listed below. The list is not exhaustive, nor does one single action on its own necessarily imply that it is considered unacceptable customer conduct.
- Verbal threats, profanity, rude or inappropriate language, attempts to goad or incite anger in others, harassment, discrimination
- Physically aggressive or intimidating approaches to another individual, throwing articles in a deliberate or aggressive manner, physical striking of another individual or causing damage to Halton Region property
- Illegal activity including illegal consumption of alcohol or drugs, theft, possession of weapons, vandalism or other illegal acts as defined by the Criminal Code
- Demeaning an Employee with statements that violate any protected ground as described by the Ontario Human Rights Code
- Sexually harassing or assaulting an Employee
- Any act that violates the permits, policies or by-laws of Halton Region and/or the Local Municipalities
- Any act that gives rise to concern for public safety
- Demanding responses within an unreasonable timeframe and not within Halton Region’s customer service standards
- Insisting on outcomes that are not possible or appropriate in the circumstances
- Unwillingness or refusing to accept Halton Region cannot provide a particular service or action on a particular issue
- Repeatedly visiting Halton Region facilities, making phone calls, leaving voicemail messages, sending letters or emails to Halton Region employees after being asked not to do so
- Contacting different employees in an effort to receive a different outcome or response than what was already provided
- Displaying unhelpful behaviour such as withholding information or misquoting others
- Refusing to cooperate with the complaints process while still requiring the complaint to be resolved
- Making unjustified complaints about an employee who is trying to address the customer’s issue/complaint
- Filing complaints about an employee that are frivolous or vexatious in nature
5.2 Response to Unacceptable Customer Conduct
5.2.1 Complaint Review
When appropriate, if an interaction with a customer involves the above noted unacceptable conduct or demonstrates any other improper conduct, an employee will notify their supervisor and/or manager regarding the situation. If the conduct threatens the safety of the employee or violates a protected ground under the Ontario Human Rights Code, the employee will remove themselves from the interaction immediately. The supervisor and/or manager will review the incident and follow up with any necessary subsequent actions.
Before deciding to apply any restrictions, Halton Region will ensure that:
- The complaint or request for information has been dealt with properly and in accordance with the relevant legislation, policy, by-laws, procedures and guidelines; and,
- Employees have made every reasonable effort to satisfy the request or resolve the complaint.
Based on the information provided by an employee, a review shall be conducted by the reporting employee’s immediate supervisor and/or manager to determine if the behaviour warrants the application of a restriction on the customer or any additional action. Each case should be considered on an individual basis and in consultation with the department’s Director. A supervisor, manager and/or director must not take any restrictive action until they have consulted with the Employee Relations team and, when appropriate, obtain guidance from the Executive Lead, Equity Diversity & Inclusion and/or the Indigenous Advisor. This determination, or any restrictions, shall consider the specific circumstances of the matter as well as the following:
The customer’s rights under the Ontario Human Rights Code to the delivery of goods, facilities and services without discrimination and to reasonable accommodation short of
- undue hardship;
- The customer’s personal circumstances, level of competency, language barriers, literary skills, etc. that may be known to an employee;
- If applicable, whether the request or complaint has been dealt with properly and in accordance with the relevant legislation, policy, by-laws, procedures and guidelines;
- If applicable, whether an employee has made reasonable efforts to satisfy or resolve the request or complaint; and,
- If applicable, whether the customer is presenting new material or information about the situation or making a new request or complaint.
Upon determination that a customer’s behaviour is unacceptable or the classification that a customer’s request or complaint is frivolous or vexatious, and depending on the severity of the incident, the supervisor and/or manager may:
- Send a letter of warning to the customer indicating that the behaviour/requests are a violation of this policy and that restrictions may be imposed should they continue; or
- Send a letter of notification to the customer indicating that the matter has been reviewed and that restrictions are to be imposed. This letter may include a summary of the findings of the review by the supervisor and/or manager, including (but not limited to) the following:
- a summary of the matter which has led to the restrictions;
- a summary of the interactions with the customer;
- a description of the restrictions that are to be applied; and
- the rationale for applying the restrictions.
5.2.3 Potential Restrictions
Restrictions shall be tailored to deal with the individual circumstances. Actions available to the supervisor and/or manager to restrict the customer may include, but are not limited, to any one or combination of the following:
- Limiting the customer’s correspondence with an employee to a particular format, time or duration;
- Limiting the customer to a particular point of contact;
- Requiring any face-to-face interactions between the customer and an employee to take place in the presence of another employee;
- Requiring the customer to make contact with Halton Region only through a third party, such as a solicitor or counsellor;
- Limiting or regulating the customer’s use of Halton Region’s programs and/or services;
- Refusing the customer access to a Halton Region facility/site except by appointment or specific permission;
- Requiring that the customer produce full disclosure of documentation or information before an employee will further investigate a complaint;
- Instructing an employee not to respond to further correspondence from the customer regarding the complaint or a substantially similar issue;
- Informing the customer that further contact on the matter will not be acknowledged or replied to;
- Closing the complaint or request for service;
- Instructing an employee not to investigate any complaints regarding an issue that has already been investigated or which is substantially similar to an issue that has already been investigated;
- Severely reducing or completely ceasing responses to further complaints, requests and/or correspondence from the customer;
- Pursuing legal action against the customer including issuance of a Notice of Trespass, Cease and Desist letter or other action as deemed appropriate.
Any restrictions made under this policy will be issued on a case by case basis. Prior to taking any action and instituting a potential restriction, the supervisor and/or manager must consult with the Employee Relations team and, when appropriate, obtain guidance from the Executive Lead, Equity Diversity & Inclusion and/or the Indigenous Advisor. In addition, the department’s leadership and advisors must be made aware of the potential restriction before it is put in place.
A restriction may be appealed to the CAO if there is evidence that can demonstrate an improper decision has been made without consideration of all relevant factors. If upon appeal the decision to restrict is upheld, a customer who has received said restrictions may appeal to Halton Region’s Ombudsman for a decision on the matter. Whatever decision is rendered by the Ombudsman will be considered final.
6. Roles and Responsibilities
- Review any appeals by a customer who has been found to be in violation of this policy.
Executive Lead, EDI & Indigenous Advisor will:
- When appropriate, provide advice to management in the review of an employee’s complaint regarding a customer’s conduct to determine if there are any other factors that should be considered prior to the application of a restriction or any additional action.
- Support employees in providing exemplary customer service by promoting safety, respect and inclusion.
- Conduct a review of an employee’s complaint regarding a customer’s actions to determine if the behaviour warrants the application of a restriction or any additional action.
- If a decision is made to apply a restriction or take additional action, consult with the Employee Relations team prior to taking any further action.
- Issue notice to a customer found to have behaved in a manner that warrants the application of a restriction or any additional action.
Employee Relations will:
- Provide support and guidance to management when an employee has raised concerns.
- Advise whether there may be any HR related concerns.
- Where required, provide interpretation on any Union related implications.
- Provide exemplary customer service by promoting safety, respect and inclusion.
- Report to management any instances of harassment, violence, unacceptable customer conduct, and/or frivolous or vexatious actions by customers towards employees or any other individual working or acting on behalf of Halton Region.
- Participate in any investigations of complaints filed by customers as required.
7. Monitoring and Compliance
Any customer that is in violation of this policy could be subject to significant consequences, including, but not limited to, criminal charges and/or having their access to Halton Region’s programs, services, and/or property restricted.