Keeping harasser and victim in same workplace

Managing the workplace when both are still with the company
By Brian Kenny
|Canadian Employment Law Today|Last Updated: 06/01/2011

Question: Is an employer required to fire an employee who harassed another employee to the point the harassed worker says she can’t work in the same office as the harasser? We have moved the harasser to another department but he’s still in the same office as we have no other locations.

Answer: Employers are required to provide a work environment free from harassment. No employee should be required to work in an environment of hostility, embarrassment or humiliation. Courts have held that a “fundamental implied term of any employment relationship is that the employer will treat the employee with civility, decency, respect and dignity” and “the standard that has to be adhered to by the employer is dependent upon the particular work environment.”

Courts must consider what is objectively reasonable in a given work environment. However, the standard placed on employers with respect to the prevention of and response to incidents of harassment is high. Courts and tribunals will take the actions, policies and procedures of an employer into account when assessing whether the employer has met that standard. In addition, there is legislation which deals with harassment in the workplace. Close attention should be paid to statutes dealing with occupational health and safety and human rights to ensure the actions taken are in line with the statutory requirements.