The Canada Labour Code (the “Code“) regulates businesses under federal jurisdiction such as television and radio stations, inter-provincial trucking companies, railroads, banks and the federal government itself. The employment of roughly 11% of Ontario’s workers falls within the scope of federal law.
A number of important changes are due to come into effect soon, dealing with workplace violence and harassment. Bill C-65 was first introduced in 2017. It has now received full approval to become law which will likely happen soon after the awaited regulations are completed.
Part II of the Code relates to workplace accidents. The definition of such an event has been expanded to include “accidents, occurrences of harassment and violence and physical or psychological injuries and illnesses arising out of, linked with or occurring in the course of employment”.
Further, the definition of harassment and violence is set as:
[A]ny 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.
Also, the Bill permits the Minister to add by regulation specific actions or conduct or even comments which would be harassment and violence.
Significantly the employer’s obligations apply to current and former employees, and are as follows:
- Respond to occurrences of harassment and violence in the workplace, including with respect to former employees;
- Offer support to employees affected by harassment and violence;
- Investigate, record and report, in accordance with the regulations, all accidents, occurrences of harassment and violence, occupational illnesses and other hazardous occurrences known to the employer, including with respect to former employees;
- Make certain health and safety information available to employees in the workplace;
- Provide training on harassment and violence to employees, including those who have supervisory or managerial responsibilities;
- Appoint a designated person before whom employees may file a complaint relating to an occurrence of harassment and violence. The designated person must have the required knowledge, training, and experience in issues relating to harassment and violence and the relevant legislation;
- Must allow for the referral of unresolved complaints relating to an occurrence of harassment and violence to the Minister, and allow the Minister to investigate thereafter;
- Allow a former employee to make a complaint related to an occurrence of harassment and violence in the workplace, within the prescribed timeframe.
Finally, the Bill states that none of these amendments limit the right of any employee to file a complaint under the Canadian Human Rights Act.
The expected regulations will also include harassment prevention policies that will be mandated and explain the procedures to be followed when reporting and responding to a complaint. There were also be provisions to provide for confidentiality protections.
These changes are important and are similar in form to the amendments Ontario originally introduced in June of 2010 and since amended to provide greater employee protections. Employees should be aware of their rights when confronted with such abusive workplace incidents.
Get Advice and Know Your Rights
It is important to stay abreast of the ever-changing legal rights and remedies. Get advice. Know your rights. Contact the offices of Guelph employment lawyer Peter McSherry. We can guide you through the issues, help you understand your rights, and defend your position. Contact us online or by phone at 519-821-5465 to schedule a consultation.