Written on behalf of Peter McSherry
On January 1, 2021, the Federal Work Place Harassment and Violence Prevention Regulations (the “Regulation”) and corresponding changes to the Canada Labour Code (the “Code”) under Bill-65 came into force.
The Regulations outline the essential elements of a workplace harassment and violence prevention policy, as well as the procedures that must be in place to respond to incidents of harassment and violence if they do occur, which include:
- timeframes for resolution to better support the complainant and alleged individual;
- confidentiality of all parties involved, including witnesses, throughout the investigation;
- protection for employees victimized by a third party (for example, an employee harassed by a client);
- the qualifications of a competent person to investigate and provide recommendations;
- employer obligations to implement corrective measures in response to the investigation report of a competent person;
- existing and new roles of the workplace committee; and
- support to be provided for employees who have experienced workplace harassment and violence.
In the Government of Canada’s news release announcing the changes, Minister of Labour Filomena Tassi stated:
“Today, we’re taking an important step forward to ensure that federally regulated workplaces—including the federally regulated private sector, the federal public service and parliamentary workplaces—are free from harassment and violence, including sexual harassment and sexual violence. Every worker deserves a safe workplace, and by working together, we can make that a reality.”
It should be noted that federally regulated workplaces include banks, railways, airlines and trucking, as well as Crown corporations and public sector employers.
Definition of “Harassment and Violence”
One of the key changes brought by Bill-65 is the addition of a definition of “harassment and violence” to s. 120(1) of the Code, 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.”
Prevention and Protection Measures
Among the new measures introduced by the Regulations, employers will be required to conduct a workplace assessment that consists of the identification of risk factors that contribute to harassment and violence in the work place and develop preventive measures that mitigate the risk of harassment and violence in the work place and neither create nor increase the risk of harassment and violence in the workplace.
Additionally, employers will be required to develop a workplace harassment and violence prevention policy, which must include, among other things: a mission statement; a description of the risk factors that contribute to workplace harassment and violence; a summary of the training the employer will provide; a summary of resolution processes; a summary of its emergency procedures; and a description of available resources and support measures for employees.
Finally, an employer must keep records relating to its workplace harassment and violence policies and incidents and provide the Minister with a corresponding annual incident report.
Employers have until January 1, 2022 to have policies and procedures in place and training completed.
In addition to the above, the Government of Canada also announced the new Part IV (Administrative Monetary Penalties) of the Code, which establishes an administrative monetary penalties system and penalizes employers who do not comply with the Code’s health and safety or labour standards.
As a result, employers who do not comply with the Code’s occupational health and safety or labour standards provisions could face a monetary penalty of up to $250,000. Monetary penalties will be calculated based on the type of violation, the size of the business and any previous monetary penalties for violations of the same or higher classification.
To provide employers with time to adjust to these changes, the Government stated that monetary penalties for administrative violations—for example, record keeping and reporting requirements—will not be imposed until January 1, 2022.
If you feel that your rights have been violated, seeking the advice of an experienced and informed employment lawyer can help you understand your rights and your options to remedy the situation.
I have extensive experience and knowledge in handling cases on behalf of employees in a variety of industries. If you have been the victim of harassment and discrimination, I can help you evaluate your options and pursue the resolution that can best serve your interests and compensate for the pain and damages you have suffered.
At Peter A. McSherry Law Office in Guelph, I have represented clients in all areas of employment since being called to the Ontario Bar in 1997. When you work with me, you will meet and discuss your case only with me. I provide each of my clients with compassionate care, attentive service and the efficient resolution of legal issues. Contact me today to schedule an initial consultation by calling my office at 519-821-5465 or by e-mailing me. Harassment and discrimination cases are not to be taken lightly. Your rights deserve protection, and you deserve to work in a non-hostile work environment.