Ignore harassment at your own risk

Increased focus on workplace harassment and bullying by lawmakers and society in general means increased pressure on employers to deal with it properly and fairly
By Sarah Vokey
|Canadian Employment Law Today|Last Updated: 02/19/2014

In June 2010, Bill 168 came into force and amended Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA). With this amendment in force, Ontario became the third province in Canada to enact protection for employees against violence and harassment in the workplace and, in turn, placed an increased obligation on employers to provide a workplace that is free from harassment and violence. Given amendments to the legislation and increased media attention on bullying, employers are dealing increasingly with complaints of workplace harassment and bullying, requiring them to take appropriate steps to effectively deal with these complaints.

As employers continue to develop and follow procedures to deal with complaints of workplace harassment and bullying, we continue to see the law in this area develop. For example, recently, a precedent-setting decision of a tribunal assembled by McMaster University in Hamilton to hear serious allegations of harassment in the workplace demonstrated that harassment complaints have traction and can attract serious consequences. In this case, the McMaster tribunal handed down sanctions of lengthy suspensions without pay, benefits, privileges or access to the university’s premises during the suspensions and removal from positions of authority.

Manner of investigation important