Absence of a current violence policy

Should dismissal be expected for assault of a co-worker?
By Colin Gibson
|Canadian Employment Law Today|Last Updated: 02/08/2012

Question: An employee threatened and physically assaulted a co-worker. Our workplace policies are being re-written and we don’t currently have a policy that prohibits violence or threats in the workplace. However, it is common sense that this type of behaviour is not acceptable at work. Can we dismiss this employee despite the lack of a policy?

Answer: In Canada, employers have an obligation to protect their employees from violence in the workplace. Most Canadian jurisdictions have a general provision in their occupational health and safety legislation which requires employers to take precautions to protect the health and safety of employees. Specific workplace violence regulations are now in place in many provinces, including Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta.

It is advisable for employers to implement workplace violence policies. In fact, some Canadian jurisdictions now require it. For example, Ontario employers are required to have a policy respecting workplace violence and harassment. Similarly, British Columbia employers must perform a “risk assessment” in workplaces where a risk of injury from violence may be present. If such a risk is identified, the employer must establish policies and procedures to minimize or eliminate the risk.