With all the allegations of sexual harassment in Hollywood coming to light this past month, the timing of Bill C-65 could not be more fitting. On November 7, 2017, the Honourable Patty Hadji announced the creation of Bill C-65, which is currently in its First Reading in the House of Commons.
Bill C-65 is aimed at strengthening existing laws on the prevention of harassment and violence across all federally regulated workplaces. It is set to amend the Canada Labour Code, the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act and the Budget Implementation Act, 2017.
Bill C-65 has three main components: prevention, response and support.
Prevention is aimed at eliminating harassment and violence from occurring within federally regulated workplaces by prohibiting a range of behaviours which may cause “accidents and physical or psychological injuries or illnesses.” The new language is intended to encompass a wide range of actions including bullying, verbal, physical and sexual harassment to violence of a physical or sexual nature. By comparison, the existing language of the Canada Labour Code simply limits behaviours which may cause “accidents and injury to health.”
Response refers to employers’ responsibilities to effectively deal with incidents when they occur. An employer is obligated to investigate, record and report all “accidents, occurrences of harassment and violence, occupational illnesses and other hazardous occurrences,” which become known to them. However, Bill C-65 does grant freedom to the Minister to forego an investigation if the complaint has been dealt with according to procedures under other federal legislation or a collective agreement. The Minister also has discretionary powers concerning those complaints which are deemed to be frivolous and vexatious.
Support focuses on employers’ obligations to respect the privacy of those individuals who report occurrences of harassment or violence within the workplace. Employers and federal officials must withhold any information which may reveal the identity of the person who reports the incident from the policy committee, workplace committee or health and safety representative of the company. This is meant to encourage those who feel they have been victimized to come forward with their complaint.
Failure to comply with this obligation may result in sanctions against the employer under Canada Labour Code.
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