Written on behalf of Peter McSherry
Federal Force Protection Agency (FFPA), a Whitby, Ontario based employer that provides security services for Oshawa City Hall was recently fined $70,000 for failing to comply with orders to develop workplace harassment and violence prevention programs for its workers.
The Occupational Health and Safety Act and Workplace Violence and Harassment
The province’s Occupational Health and Safety Act (the Act) sets out the rights and duties for the health and safety of all workplace parties, and sets out consequences for non-compliance with these duties.
Bill 168 amended the and imposed new obligations on employers regarding workplace violence and harassment. These amended requirements establish minimum standards and set out the rights and duties for all workplace parties who have a role in addressing workplace violence and workplace harassment.
The amendments to the Act recognize that workers may be subject to harassment and/or violence in the workplace, ranging from offensive remarks to physical violence. The person perpetrating the violence or harassment can be a colleague, manager, or supervisor, or can be someone with no connection to the workplace such as a client, a stranger, or a domestic partner who brings violence or harassment into the workplace.
It is important for employers to address any unwanted comments or behaviours early in order to minimize the possibility that harassment escalates into violence.
Employers must now devise workplace violence and harassment policies, develop programs to implement those policies, undertake assessments in order to measure the risk of workplace violence, and train employees about these policies.
Employers also have obligations to prevent harassment under the Ontario Human Rights Code
Violations of the OHSA
In this case, the employer’s failure to comply with its obligations came to the Ministry of Labour’s attention when a Ministry inspector conducted an investigation following an injury suffered by an FFPA employee in October 2014.
The inspector subsequently issued ten orders to FFPA. The orders required the employer to:
- assess the risks of workplace violence;
- assess the risks of workplace harassment;
- prepare a policy regarding workplace violence;
- prepare a policy regarding workplace harassment;
- develop, maintain, and implement a program to address workplace violence;
- develop, maintain, and implement a program to address workplace harassment;
- train workers about the policies and programs.
The Ministry inspector followed up with three phone calls when several of the orders were not initially complied with. In March 2015, the Ministry inspector returned to the workplace to again follow up on the status of the orders. At that time, the employer still had not complied with seven of the ten orders. A notice of non-compliance was issued.
Consequences of Non-Compliance
In February 2017, Justice of the Peace Ryan found that FFPA had failed to comply with Ministry orders, and fined the company $10,000 for each count of non-compliance, for a total of $70,000.
In addition to the fines, a 25% victim fine surcharge was imposed, as required by the Provincial Offences Act.
The hearing was conducted ex parte, meaning that it was decided without all parties needing to be present.
If you are an employee and have been subject to violence or harassment in the workplace, or are concerned that your employer does not have adequate workplace violence or harassment policies, or those policies are inadequate, contact Guelph employment lawyer Peter McSherry today by phone at 519-821-5465 or by e-mail to schedule a consultation.