It has now been over a year since Bill 168, the Occupational
Health and Safety Amendment Act (Violence and Harassment in the
Workplace) came into force. So far, there have not been any
reported prosecutions dealing with workplace violence or
harassment. However, Ministry statistics make it clear that the new
law is being taken seriously. In the period between June 15, 2010
and March 31, 2011, Ministry of Labour Inspectors investigated more
than 400 complaints involving workplace violence and more than 1000
complaints involving workplace harassment.1 In addition,
600 orders associated with workplace violence and 1100 orders
associated with workplace harassment have been issued.2
Workplace violence and harassment are clearly on the Ministry's
As a refresher, as of June 15, 2010, most employers in Ontario
were required to:
(i) undertake a workplace violence risk assessment; (ii) prepare
internal programs and policies aimed at identifying and controlling
risks for workplace violence and workplace harassment; (iii) create
procedures for summoning immediate assistance when workplace
violence is imminent or occurring; (iv) create procedures for
reporting and investigating complaints of workplace violence or
harassment; and (v) provide information and instruction to all
staff on the internal programs and policies put in place.
Employers who have not yet complied with the legislation can
still do so, and there are now many on-line resources, publications
and other helpful documentation to assist. For those who have met
the initial requirements, it is important to remember that the
legislation also requires employers to review their policies and
procedures at least annually and to review and update their
assessment of the risks of workplace violence as often as is
necessary to ensure that workers are protected.
While there have been no reported Ministry of Labour
prosecutions dealing with workplace violence or harassment, some
adjudicators have commented on the impact of the legislation in a
discipline and discharge context. For example, in H.J. Heinz
Co. of Canada Ltd. and UFCW, Local 459 (Pursel)
(Re),3 a discipline case involving a physical fight
between two co-workers, Arbitrator Marcotte commented as
I also note that the enactment of Bill 168 reflects societal
concerns about violence in the workplace and in some respects, in
counsel's words, it is a "codification of common
sense," such that its occurrence in the workplace is a serious
matter that attracts serious discipline. By way of engaging in
workplace violence on June 11, 2010, it is appropriate that the
discipline be greater than had been imposed by the Company prior to
Other arbitrators, in similar cases, have emphasized that while
violent conduct in the workplace may be grounds for summary
dismissal in appropriate cases, the passage of Bill 168 and an
employer's policies aimed at eradicating violence in the
workplace, do not automatically lead to discharge as the
appropriate penalty. Rather, arbitrators are still called upon to
weigh all the factors and properly assess the circumstances to
ensure a proportionate disciplinary response. Accordingly, in many
recent cases, while the employer's decision to terminate an
employee for engaging in violence in the workplace have been
overturned, arbitrators have upheld lengthy unpaid suspensions in
the magnitude of 6 months or more.5
It is clear therefore that workplace violence and harassment and
an employer's attempts to rid the workplace of such conduct
have become a matter of public policy and consciousness.
1 Ontario Ministry of Labour, Safe at Work
Today, Issue #7, June, 2011.
3 2011 CLB 1872.
4 Ibid, at para 77.
5 See: Georgia Pacific Canada Inc. and
Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada, Local
192 (2011) CanLII 18182 (Luborsky); Zochem, division of
Hudsons Bay Mining and Smelting Co. Ltd. v. CEPU, Local 591G
(Harvey Grievance),  OLAA No. 466 (Monteith); and
Metro Ontario Inc. and CAW Local 414 (Ritchie Grievance),
 OLAA No. 202 (Hinnegan).
Unfortunately, reasonable accommodation for employees in the workplace continues to be the source of significant litigation and even today we continue to see outrageous examples of employers behaving badly.
We are now beginning to see reported cases involving charges and subsequent fines laid against employers for failing to provide information, instruction and supervision to protect a worker from workplace violence.
On October 13, 2016, the Supreme Court of Canada denied leave to appeal an Ontario Court of Appeal decision which ordered an employer to pay a former employee 37 months of salary and benefits following termination.
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