Employee bullying and harassment outside of the workplace

The extent of the employer's jurisdiction over behaviour of employees outside work
By Colin Gibson
|Canadian Employment Law Today|Last Updated: 02/06/2013

Question: What obligations does an employer have to deal with bullying or harassment involving employees that occurs outside the workplace? Does it make a difference if some of the bullying or harassing behaviour happened at work?

Answer: Complaints arising from workplace bullying and harassment have become increasingly prevalent in recent years. These complaints typically arise in two contexts. One is under human rights legislation, where bullying and harassment on protected grounds are treated as a form of discrimination. The other is under workers’compensation and occupational health and safety regimes, where an employer’s obligation to provide a safe and healthy workplace can require the implementation of measures to prevent and deal with bullying and harassment. In both of these contexts, an employer can be held liable for the actions of its employees.

In British Columbia, the Workers’ Compensation Act was recently amended specifically to address bullying and harassment. The act now states that a mental disorder is compensable if it is “predominantly caused by a significant work-related stressor, including bullying or harassment.” Ontario passed similar legislation when it amended its Occupational Health and Safety Act in December 2009. This trend is likely to continue across the country, given the growing recognition of the adverse effects that bullying and harassment can have on employees.