The Government of Canada has passed new federal legislation to protect employees from harassment and violence in the workplace. On January 1, 2021 the new Workplace Harassment and Violence Prevention Regulations will come into force to provide even more support for federally regulated employees. Currently, the existing legislation, Bill C-65, addresses prevention, response, and support for victims of harassment or violence.
The definition of harassment or violence is outlined in Bill C-65 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.”
First, it is important to know if you are a federally regulated employee. Next, it is important to be aware of the new regulations and how they can help you if you are faced with harassment and violence in your workplace.
Are you a federally regulated employee?
Federally regulated employees are governed by the Canada Labour Code (“CLC”). On the other hand, provincially regulated employees are governed by different legislation including Ontario’s Employment Standards Act, 2000. The list of federally regulated industries and workplaces includes:
- Interprovincial/international transportation (eg. trucking companies, railways)
- Airports, and Air transportation
- Television, Telephone, Radio and Cable systems
- Grain Elevators
- Uranium Mining and Processing
- First Nation Activities and Crown Corporations
It is important to note that there are exceptions to this list. Often, whether you are a federally regulated or provincially regulated employee is factually based. If you are unsure whether you are a federally regulated employee, it is recommended to consult with an experienced employment lawyer at Monkhouse Law.
Outline of new regulations against harassment
As of January 1, 2021, the Workplace Harassment and Violence Prevention Regulations will make it easier for employees to know their legal rights, timeframes for resolution, and the obligations of their employer regarding workplace harassment and violence. The regulations will replace Part XX of the Canada Occupational Health and Safety Regulations.
These regulations are a huge step forward, as previously courts had decided that the tort of harassment did not exist at common law as outlined in the case of Merrifield v. Canada (Attorney General) 2019 ONCA 205.
– Alexandra Monkhouse, Employment Lawyer
The new regulations outline the following elements:
- Prevention Policy – An employer must develop and make available a prevention policy jointly with the applicable partner (policy committee, workplace committee, or a representative), which outlines how the organization will address harassment and violence in the workplace.
- Workplace Assessment – An employer must carry out a workplace assessment jointly with the applicable partner that consists of risk factors and implementing preventive measures for harassment and violence.
- Emergency Procedures – An employer must develop and implement emergency procedures jointly with the applicable partner to address occurrences that pose an immediate danger to employees.
- Training Requirements – An employer must develop or identify training jointly with the applicable partner and must be updated at least every 3 years.
- Support Measures – An employer must make available to their employees’ information about the support services that are available within their geographical area.
- Resolution Process – The new regulations focus on the communication-based resolution between the employer and the employee. They provide different options for resolution including negotiated resolution, conciliation, and investigation. If the employer wishes to develop or identify a list of investigators, they must do so jointly with the applicable partner.
- Records and Reports – An employer must keep a number of records (records of occurrences of harassment and violence, actions taken to address the notices, any delays to the timelines, etc.) and report any occurrences that result in the death of an employee within 24 hours after becoming aware of the death.
- Confidentiality – An employer must put in place strong privacy protections to encourage employees to come forward with complaints. Any investigation final report should not reveal the identities of the persons or witnesses involved.
“These changes ensure that employees have more options to combating harassment and violence in the workplace. It also ensures that employers implement a comprehensive policy to protect their employees”
– Alexandra Monkhouse, Employment Lawyer
For more detailed information on this topic, please read more: Government of Canada publishes new regulations to prevent harassment and violence in federal workplaces.
Monkhouse Law is an employment law firm in Toronto with a focus on workers’ issues. We believe all Canadians deserve a workplace free from harassment and violence. If you have experienced discrimination or if you are an employer who needs to update their anti-harassment policies in the light of the new federal regulation, give us a call. We offer a free 30-minute phone consultation.