COFAS Policies

Employee Security - Adopted at COFAS 1995

All employers have a duty to provide a safe working environment for their employees. Organizations which represent academic staff are under the same duty of care towards their employees as is the university to its.

This duty of care includes such items as:

1   provision of security measures, safe equipment, materials, etc.;

2   .provision of information, instruction, training, and supervision to each employee to protect the health or safety of that employee;

3.  acquainting each employee with the existence of any potential or actual danger or hazard in the work;

4.  taking every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of employees, including providing employees with written instructions as to the measures and procedures to be taken for the protection of the employee; and,

5.  provision of post-trauma counselling measures.


Rationale for a COFAS Policy Statement on Employee Security

COFAS members have been subjected to distressing and sometimes violent encounters during the course of their work. Some of this inappropriate behaviour may originate from members who are under stress or who are insecure in their own jobs. Some of it may be caused by the hierarchical structure of universities and of academic associations. Some of it may relate to the fact that COFAS members are largely female and the members they represent largely male.

 While some Canadian universities have various policies in place dealing with sexual harassment, racial harassment, ethical treatment of research subjects, or threat policies, those who employ members of COFAS generally do not fully comprehend their liability as an employer although they may well understand that their own employer has a duty to provide them with a safe and hospitable working environment.

Because many COFAS members deal with academic staff who are distressed by the situation which causes them to seek our assistance, we face a potential danger which may be confined to verbal abuse or may escalate into levels of harassment and/or violence which will have negative effects long after the particular situation is dealt with. COFAS members are particularly vulnerable precisely because they are, at the same time, dealing with distressed academics and representing the individual. This circumstance of our employment is central to the difficulty in expressing a policy relating to employee security.

However, this does note negate the necessity of attempting to achieve some measure of understanding the boundary between being actively engaged in representing a distressed academic and where that working relationship deteriorates into an abusive one. Strategies must be developed to deal with actual and perceived situations of discomfort in ways that are positive and non-threatening.

In the recent past, some COFAS members have taken security measures in their offices such as putting peep holes in doors and keeping the door shut and locked, installing video-cameras and installing buzzers linked directly to security. While these measurers may be useful, they permit the employer to opt out of dealing with the underlying situation by leaving the COFAS member (equipped with some type of technology) to deal with a potentially threatening situation by him/herself. This is especially critical in one-person offices.

It is important that employers and employees not relay on technology to the detriment of common sense. Even with surveillance cameras and buzzers direct to security it will still take considerable time for a response - time which may be vital.

Training and post-trauma counselling are vital in terms of preparedness and coming to terms with the distress caused by abusive situations.

Hopefully, the more prepared we are (the less we refuse to admit that such events might happen to us) the less we will need post-trauma counselling.


The policy statement as drafted is taken largely from the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act. The rationale for each statement follows:

1.      provision of security measures, safe equipment, materials, etc.;

The association employer should provide a safely equipped workspace which can be secured. If it is necessary for the employee to work late at night, arrangements should be made to ensure that the employee is able to exit the worksite in safety.

2.      provision of information, instruction, training, and supervision to each employee to protect the health or safety of that employee;

The association employer should inform the employee(s) of any pertinent information about those seeking assistance from the staff relating to the potential for creating a less than harmonious work station. The association employer should provide appropriate training/instruction relevant to dealing with any potential difficult situation. This could encompass such things as instruction relating to dealing with members suffering from a terminal illness to those undergoing behaviour modification therapy through the use of drugs.

3.      acquainting each employee with the existence of any potential or actual danger or hazard in the work;

The association employer should provide any information they have about the potential for danger inherent in any counselling situation and should so inform the employee. Employees should not be left on their own to deal with a potentially difficult or threatening situation.

4.      taking every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of employees, including providing employees with written instructions as to the measures and procedures to be taken for the protection of the employee; and,

The association employer should take reasonable precautions such as relieving staff of the responsibility for dealing with abusive individuals or having an association employer representative present at all meetings. Written instructions may also be useful in providing evidence that the association employer carried out their duty to provide a safe working environment.

5.      provision of post-trauma counselling measures.

Should all the physical/technological security measures, training, information, and other precautions fail and an employee be subjected to a harassing/threatening/dangerous situation, such an employee should be provided with post-trauma counselling measures in order to facilitate recovery from the incident(s).

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 COFAS Policy on Dues Payment - 'going forward basis' application

At the May 2011 COFAS Conference in Victoria, B.C. it was AGREED that dues payments, previously applied to the year leading up to the annual conference, would be switched to a 'going forward basis' and considered 'payment in advance' for the upcoming year.  This decision was made to facilitate the new COFAS website, wherein the 'members only' section can be accessed by those who are paid for the current dues year.  They will be provided with a member password for access on an annual basis. Those who have paid current dues will be indicated on the Dean's List as it is periodically updated.

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COFAS Policy on writing letters to employers in support of members' employment issues

At the May 2010 COFAS Conference in Moncton, NB, it was AGREED that COFAS would not, as an organization, sanction letters to employers when the organization is contacted by members who are experiencing difficulties with their employers. 

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COFAS Policy - Solidarity Policy
Authority: COFAS Membership
Approval Date: 6 June 2015

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COFAS Policy - Salary Survey Distribution Policy
Authority: COFAS Membership
Approval Date: 3 June 2017

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COFAS Statement - Conference Attendance Statement
Authority: COFAS Membership
Approval Date: 3 June 2017

The Canadian Organization of Faculty Association Staff is committed to ensuring that all COFAS events are free of harassment and discrimination. Harassing and discriminatory behaviour undermines an individual’s right to participate fully and equally in the work of COFAS as well as undermines the purposes and goals of our organization.

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