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In 2015, Ontario introduced Bill 132, the Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act to address workplace violence and sexual harassment in provincially regulated workplaces. However, until now, no comparable legislation has existed for employees of the federal government or of federally regulated workplaces.

Anti-Harassment and Violence Amendments to the Canada Labour Code

The federal legislature has demonstrated its intention to finally address this gap through the introduction of Bill C-65, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (harassment and violence), the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act and the Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1.

The new legislation is designed to provide more privacy for employees who report incidents of violence or harassment by imposing increased confidentiality measures for complainants in addition to protection from reprisal.

It also provides more tools for complainants who may now choose to file a complaint of workplace sexual harassment pursuant to the Canada Labour Code rather than with the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

New obligations for federally regulated employers

The amendments to the Canada Labour Code will make violence and harassment part of the action’s employers are required to prevent and act on under occupational health and safety provisions.

In some ways, the obligations imposed by Bill C-65 extend beyond those implemented at the provincial level by Bill 132. For instance, all federally-regulated employers will be required to have a sexual harassment policy in place and report on how many times it is used to Parliament.

The new rules will also mandate the training of employees (including supervisory and managerial employees) on the prevention of harassment and violence in the work place and on their rights and obligations

Who is affected?

Because less than 10% of Canadian workplaces are federally regulated, Bill C-65 will have a limited impact in Ontario private-sector workplaces. Some industries that will be impacted by Bill C-65 include banking, international and inter-provincial rail, air and road transportation, and broadcasting and telecommunications.

In addition to applying to employees of federal Crown corporations and to federal public service employees, the legislation will also bring parliamentary and political staff under the protection of these new provisions.

The offices of Members of Parliament and Ministers will also be required to have harassment policies in place. In cases where the MP is also a Minister, there will be two policies to separately govern each set of personnel.

Takeaways for employers

Bill C-65 has received Royal Assent but is not yet law. Regulations will be introduced in the near future and federally regulated workplaces will need to comply with the changes introduced through Bill C-65 as early as spring 2019.

However, federally regulated employers can get a head start on managing the upcoming changes by creating or updating their anti-harassment and violence policies and programs, to include:

  • a definition of harassment and violence and a commitment that such actions are strictly prohibited within the workplace;
  • the training of employees, supervisors, and managers on harassment and violence;
  • the creation of a procedure for how to report incidents of harassment and violence;
  • a designation of appropriate persons to receive complaints of harassment and violence;
  • the creation and outline of an investigative process that ensures confidentiality; and
  • a prohibition on any form of retaliation against individuals making or participating in the complaint process.

If you have any questions or would like further information regarding the impact of these legislative changes on federally regulated workplaces, please contact Alexandra Hobson at Sultan Lawyers PC by telephone at 416-214-5111 or by email at ahobson@sultanlawyers.com.

 


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