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Thanks to Bill C-65, significant amendments to the Canada Labour Code (“the Code”)(the employment and workplace laws that impact federal workers) are expected to become law in 2020. Specifically, and for the first time ever, the Code will expressly address harassment and violence in the workplace. The law will have an impact on a wide range of cases including those relating to unjust dismissal and wrongful dismissal.

The current legislation does not directly address this type of misconduct, and these changes are intended to reflect the federal government’s intention to protect workers and prevent harassment and violence in the workplace, respond effectively when incidents occur, and support and assist employees and employers throughout the resolution process. To remedy the gaps in the legislation, the following amendments will occur:

Defining Harassment and Violence

The Code will include an express definition of ‘harassment and violence’. This term will be defined as “any action, conduct or comment, including of a sexual nature, that can reasonably be expected to cause offence, humiliation or other physical or psychological injury or illness to an employee, including any prescribed action, conduct or comment”.

Furthermore, the Code will expand the purpose of Part II: Occupational Health and Safety to include the prevention of instances of harassment and violence, and physical or psychological injuries.

Expanding Employer Obligations

Employers will be required to investigate, report, and record instances of harassment and violence in the workplace, and support employees affected by this misconduct.

The Code will require employers to develop and implement a satisfactory workplace harassment and violence policy as well as training for all employees. This will include ensuring that individuals tasked with receiving harassment and violence complaints are trained before assuming their duties and have adequate knowledge and experience. The policy must contain required elements, such as a mission statement, the factors that contribute to harassment and violence, the resolution process, and emergency procedures; and the training must be specific to the workplace’s culture, conditions and activities.

Lastly, the Code will require employers to provide the following documents to employees in both printed and electronic form:

  • Part II: Occupational Health and Safety section of the Code and any applicable regulations;
  • The employer’s general health and safety policy; and
  • Any other information relating to the health and safety prescribed or specified by the Minister.

Expanding Employee Rights

The Code will allow employees to anonymously or non-anonymously make oral or written complaints through an internal complaint resolution process. Complaints related to workplace harassment and violence will be made to an employee’s supervisor or an individual tasked with receiving harassment and violence complaints. The complaints must be resolved as soon as possible, and any unresolved complaints may be referred to the Minister to investigate and resolve. However, the Minister will not investigate if the complaint is an abuse of process or has already been dealt with by the Code, other legislation, or a collective agreement. If the Minister declines to investigate, a written decision will be issued.

The complaint mechanism will also apply to former employees whose employment with the employer ceased within the last three months. If the three month period expires, the former employee may apply to the Governor in Council for an extension to submit their complaint.

Conclusion

These amendments to the Code aim to free workplaces from harassment and violence by transforming them into transparent, safe, and accountable environments.

Employers should be proactive in ensuring continued compliance with the Code by remaining aware of the changes, adopting or updating policies on workplace harassment and violence, and training employees. Similarly, employees should remain aware of the recent developments in employment and labour laws to ensure their protection from harassment and violence in the workplace and receive support on how to resolve any misconduct.

If you are seeking assistance with respect to any employment matters relating to workplace harassment and violence, including how to develop policies and training that is consistent with the changes to the Canada Labour Code, or whether there may be recourse for workplace harassment and violence, please contact Toronto employment lawyers Sultan Lawyers at mlahert@sultanlawyers.com or 416-214-5111.


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