On the heels of the viral #metoo campaign, the federal government is cracking down on harassment and violence in the workplace. The Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour recently proposed Bill C-65, an Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (harassment and violence).
Federally regulated employers such as banks, telecommunications and transport industries should take note of this proposed law.
The legislation has three main pillars:
- Prevention of incidents of harassment and violence
- Responding effectively to these incidents when they do occur; and
- Supporting victims, survivors and employers in the process.
If Bill C-65 is passed into law, some of the most notable would amendments include:
- Inclusion of psychological injuries and illnesses: The Canada Labour Code would specifically recognize “psychological injuries and illnesses” as an objective of prevention, instead of its current restriction to purely physical injury.
- Prescribed measures against violence and harassment: Although Ontario employers are already required to maintain workplace and harassment policies, federally regulated employers would now be required to take prescribed measures to prevent and protect against harassment and violence in the workplace, respond to occurrences of harassment and violence in the workplace and offer support to employees affected and violence in the workplace
- Referral of complaint to the minister: Complaints of violence or harassment that are not resolved between the employee and supervisor would be referred directly to the Minister. The Minister would be obligated to investigate the complaint unless it believes that the complaint was adequately dealt with or was trivial, frivolous or vexatious.
- Repeal of exemption: The existing law allows employers to request an exemption from establishing a workplace health and safety committee where the work is relatively free from risks to health and safety. This exemption would be repealed.
- Protection of privacy: The privacy of complainants of workplace harassment or violence would be protected. Workplace committees, policy committees and health and safety representatives would not be permitted to participate in investigations into workplace harassment or violence, and would not be provided with any information that is likely to reveal the identity of a person involved in an investigation, unless an employee provides his/her consent
Lessons for Employers
Whether Bill C-65 is passed into law or not, the three pillars of this bill provide a valuable guide to all federally regulated employers on how to properly approach workplace violence and harassment:
- Prevention: Employers should ensure that there are policies and programs in place to prevent incidents of harassment and violence. Employers can provide educational training to employees on what constitutes harassment and violence in the workplace.
- Response: There should be a clear procedure to deal with incidents of workplace harassment or violence should they occur. Examples of effective measures include implementing a system to report incidents and investigating all complaints by employees. An employee should receive training on how to investigate incidents or complaints of workplace harassment and violence so an adequately trained person can investigate complaints internally. This will eliminate the need to hire an external investigator in many cases.
- Support : Employees who are victims of harassment or violence should have access to resources that will support their recovery and enable them to continue working in their place of employment without fear of recurring incidents.
What is the definition of harassment? This blog discusses an employer’s legal obligation to investigate workplace harassment complaints and how to limit the cost of these investigations.
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