Workplace Harassment: Five Things You Need to Know About Filing a Complaint

Nov 25, 2011

Until recently, employees with workplace harassment complaints felt they had no legal options. It was possible to quit and claim constructive dismissal but most employees are reluctant to do so.

Since June 2010, however, Ontario employees have had the right to file a harassment complaint under the Occupational Health & Safety Act (OHSA).

Here are five things you need to know about filing a complaint under the OHSA:

1.      Have you subject to workplace harassment?

Under the OHSA, “workplace harassment” means engaging in a course of vexatious  comment or conduct against a worker in a workplace that is known or ought  reasonably to be known to be unwelcome.

“Vexatious” is not defined in the OHSA however the word has been interpreted under another Ontario law to mean the comment or  conduct is annoying, distressing or agitating to the person complaining, or the person finds the comments and conduct worrisome, discomfiting and demeaning.

2.      Has your employer posted a workplace harassment policy?

If there are six or more workers regularly employed at the workplace, it should be posted. If not, ask for a copy of it.

3.   Does your employer have a complaint procedure for workplace harassment complaints?

If there are six or more workers regularly employed at the workplace, it should be made available to you. If not, ask for a copy of it.

4.     What can you do if your employer refuses to investigate a workplace harassment complaint?

Contact the Ontario Ministry of Labour. An employer is required to investigate a workplace harassment complaint.

5.     What if your employer disciplines you for filing a workplace harassment complaint

Speak to a lawyer, or file a complaint with the Ministry of Labour. The OHSA specifically prohibits an employer for disciplining or otherwise punishing an employee for exercising his or her rights under the OHSA.

For more information about harassment or violence at work, see here. For information about sexual harassment, see here.

If you have any questions about your right to file a workplace harassment complaint, please contact us at  [email protected] or 1-888-640-1728 (toll free) or 647-633-9894 (within the GTA).

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