Ontario employers will have additional duties to address Workplace Harassment, effective September 8, 2016. The following amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) will take effect on this date:
- The definition of “Workplace Harassment” will be expanded to specifically include “Workplace Sexual Harassment”.
- A definition of “Workplace Sexual Harassment” will be added.
- Employers must consult with the Joint Health & Safety Committee or a Health & Safety Representative, if any, to develop and maintain a written program to implement the Workplace Harassment Policy.
- Measures and procedures for workers to report incidents of workplace harassment when the alleged harasser is the employer or a supervisor.
- Measures to maintain confidentiality of sensitive information, such as identifying information of the individuals involved, unless required for the purposes of the investigation, taking corrective action, or as required by law.
- Procedures for how the results of an investigation, and any corrective action, will be shared with the complainant and alleged harasser.
- A Ministry of Labour (MOL) inspector may order an employer to cause an investigation of workplace harassment, at the employers expense, by an impartial person, and to obtain a written report by that person.
“Workplace Harassment” means,
(a) 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, or
(b) workplace sexual harassment
“Workplace Sexual Harassment” means,
(a) engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct against a worker in a workplace because of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, where the course of comment or conduct is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome, or
(b) making a sexual solicitation or advance where the person making the solicitation or advance is in a position to confer, grant or deny a benefit or advancement to the worker and the person knows or ought reasonably to know that the solicitation or advance is unwelcome
Code of Practice to Address Workplace Harassment
The Ontario Ministry of Labour (MOL) has developed and approved a Code of Practice to address Workplace Harassment, effective as of September 8, 2016. This code can be used at all workplaces to which the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) applies. Compliance with the practices set out in this Code of Practice is one way in which employers can meet the legal requirements regarding workplace harassment, though determination about whether OHSA requirements have been met is made by the MOL. Read more about the Code of Practice.
The Code of Practice contains four Parts:
- Workplace Harassment Policy;
- Workplace Harassment Program;
- Employer’s Duties Concerning Workplace Harassment; and
- Providing Information and Instruction on a Workplace Harassment Policy and Program.
Each Part contains the following:
- General Information;
- Provision(s), which refer to the legal requirement(s) under the OHSA which are enforceable by MOL inspectors; and
- Practice, which may be followed by an employer to comply with a specific Workplace Harassment provision.
The MOL has also provided useful templates for Workplace Harassment Policy, Workplace Harassment Program and Investigation Plan as guidance material for employers.