Last week, the Ontario Government announced that it will be investing $1.7 million over the next three years to provide workplace sexual harassment and violence training for bartenders, servers, and others in the hospitality sector. The training is to be developed by the Ontario Restaurant Hotel & Motel Association (ORHMA). The goal is to provide workers with the tools to identify and safely intervene in instances of sexual violence and harassment involving other employees and patrons.
What Does This Mean for Employees?
According to the ORHMA, about 25,000 frontline hospitality workers will be trained under this new program. Many of these workers are female or new Canadians, making them exceptionally vulnerable to sexual harassment and violence.The Minister of Labour has said that:
“In Ontario, everyone should be free from the threat of sexual harassment at work. We are all entitled to feel safe and be safe while working.”
Indeed, this initiative follows the passing of the Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act (Supporting Survivors and Challenging Sexual Violence and Harassment). The Act is intended to make all workplaces safer and improve support for survivors through significant legislative amendments that came into force on September 8, 2016.
Under the Act, workplace sexual harassment has been included as a form of workplace harassment. In addition, employers are now required to take complaints about workplace sexual harassment and violence much more seriously. There are increased obligations on employers to address and investigate such incidents. For instance, employers must now ensure that:
- An investigation into a workplace harassment complaint is conducted (appropriate to the circumstances);
- The complainant and alleged harasser are informed (in writing) of the results of the investigation as well as any corrective action taken as a result;
- Their workplace harassment policy and program is reviewed at least annually, and as often as necessary.
In addition to the above, employers may also be ordered to retain an independent third party individual to investigate a workplace harassment incident or complaint.
The Ontario government has committed to increasing safety at work by working to decrease incidents of workplace sexual harassment and violence, including providing focused training for workers in sectors that are more vulnerable to such incidents. This is a positive step forward for employees in the province.
If you have questions about harassment at work or your workplace human rights, contact employment lawyer Peter McSherry online or at 519-821-5465.