The Feds play catch-up on workplace violence and harassment

Canada Labour Code to address violence and harassment in the workplace 9 years after Ontario's Bill 168
By Kelsey Orth
|employmentlawtoday.com|Last Updated: 11/16/2018

On Oct. 25, 2018, Bill C-65, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (harassment and violence), the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act and the Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1, received Royal Assent. The act amends the Canada Labour Code, and the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act (PESRA). For all non-parliamentary federally-regulated employers, the significant aspects of Bill C-65 are obviously those that affect the code.

Part II of the code addresses Occupational Health and Safety. However, unlike Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act (the OHSA), or other similar provincial legislation, the code does not currently address harassment or violence. However, the Bill C-65 amendments do just that, expanding the purpose of Part II to specifically address harassment and violence in the workplace, as follows:

"Harassment and violence" means any action, conduct or comment, including of a sexual nature, that can reasonably be expected to cause offence, humiliation or other physical or psychological injury or illness to an employee, including any prescribed action, conduct or comment

The amendments to the code also set out specific obligations of employers with respect to preventing and/or addressing workplace harassment and violence, requiring all employers to:

  • prevent and protect against harassment and violence in the workplace
  • provide training to supervisors and managers
  • respond to occurrences of harassment and violence in the workplace, including offering support to affected employees
  • ensuring that the person designated by the employer to receive complaints has “knowledge, training and experience in issues relating to harassment and violence, and has knowledge of relevant legislation.”

While the above is a non-exhaustive list, it is clear that federally-regulated employers will have significant obligations when the act comes into force (on a day yet to be proclaimed). While those employers can likely look to their contemporaries in provincial jurisdictions with similar legislation for a general direction, proper consideration of each of the specific obligations will be important to ensure that all obligations are met going forward.

Kelsey Orth is an associate practicing employment and labour law with CCPartners in Brampton, Ont. He can be reached at (905) 874-9343 ext. 225 or korth@ccpartners.ca.

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