Workplace Bullying: Does My Employer Have To Intervene?
Have you experienced workplace bullying or harassment? Did you know that your employer has an obligation to investigate any complaint of bullying or harassment you make regardless of whether or not you file a formal complaint? In fact, simply stating that you are feeling attacked or bullied could trigger the employer’s duty to investigate. Employers are also required to have an workplace harassment complaint procedure in place for employees to file such complaints.
The employer must conduct an investigation including interviewing you as well as any other relevant parties, and providing the outcome of their investigation and the corrective action taken, if any. Failure to conduct a proper investigation may result in a violation of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (“OHSA”).
An employer also has obligations under the Ontario Human Rights Code (the “Code”) to investigate a discrimination and/or harassment allegation. Harassment under the Code is defined as “engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct that is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome”. If an employer becomes aware of any instance of harassment on a prohibited ground such as sexual or racial harassment, it is obliged to investigate it. The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario has stated that an employer is required to treat the complaint seriously, deal with the matter promptly, investigate it, and communicate its findings to the complainant. The duty to investigate exists even where this is no actual finding of discrimination or harassment.
An employer’s obligations under both the OSHA and the Code are significant. If you experience any form of workplace harassment or discrimination, contact a lawyer to learn more about your rights and to ensure that your employer is fulfilling its obligations to you.
Read our other blogs about bullying and harassment.