Do you have a workplace harassment policy and program? – It’s a requirement

We take this opportunity to remind you that every employer in British Columbia is required to develop, implement and maintain both a workplace harassment policy and workplace harassment program. This obligation stems from section 115 of the Workers Compensation Act, which requires that employers ensure the health and safety of its workers and any other workers present at the workplace, and provide the information, instruction, training and/or supervision necessary to ensure work is performed safely.

WorkSafeBC has published Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) policies that expand upon the requirement. Details regarding the anti-bullying and harassment requirements can be found in OHS policy D3-115-2. The requirements include: 1) taking steps to prevent or minimize bullying and harassment, 2) developing and implementing reporting procedures, 3) developing and implementing procedures for dealing with incidents and complaints and 4) annually reviewing the policy statement and procedures for reporting and dealing with incidents and complaints.

Ontario has now put in place similar requirements effective September 8, 2016 under the Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act (the “Act”), formerly known as Bill 132, which places additional duties on employers with respect to preventing workplace harassment. The Act amends the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act (the “OHSA”) to include requirements that employers:

  • develop and maintain a workplace harassment program,
  • establish a complaint process and investigation procedure, and
  • notify a complainant and respondent in writing of the results of an investigation and any corrective action taken.

In addition, the Act expands the definition of “workplace harassment” under the OHSA to include “sexual harassment”.

Both WorkSafeBC and the Ontario Ministry of Labour provide sample workplace harassment programs and policies. The BC example can be found at this link here. For Ontario, the examples can be found at the following links, here and here.

Please contact any member of our Labour + Employment Practice with questions regarding compliance with your employer obligations.

The foregoing is a general discussion of certain legal and related developments and should not be relied upon as legal advice. If you require legal advice, please contact the author who would be pleased to discuss the issues above with you, in the context of your particular circumstances.