On October 14th 2011, in the case of Rejeanne Rioux c. La Commission
touristique du Port-Joli inc., Mr.
Provencher, the new head chef, grabbed his colleague, Mrs. Rioux,
by the hips. The complainant notified her discontent to Mr.
Provencher by stepping back and by glancing unequivocally at him.
Mr. Provencher repeated the gesture during the day and also during
the following days. Moreover, he sometimes stroked her back or held
her by the neck. He also made remarks with sexual connotations to
Mrs. Rioux. She tried to inform her director, but she postponed the
meeting. Following various similar incidents, Mrs. Rioux felt
anxious and felt the need to consult her doctor. He prescribes her
a work stoppage.
Despite the repeated complaints of the worker, the director
concluded, without investigating, that it was only a
misunderstanding. Only Mr. Provencher was interviewed and he
trivialized the events. Management did not try to verify the
well-foundedness of the complaint, but merely offered Mrs. Rioux a
meeting in the presence of Mr. Provencher. The complainant refused
the offer. During her work stoppage, Mrs. Rioux did not contact her
employer nor did the employer try to reach her. The following
season, management concluded that she had resigned when she
didn't show up.
Clearly the repeated touching of the complainant despite her
disagreement constitutes a form of psychological harassment. The
accumulation of incidents in a short period of time shows a harmful
conduct. In this case, the Commission des relations du
travail reiterated that the employer must take all reasonable
measures to stop a vexatious behavior when it is brought to its
The employer had a prevention policy on psychological
harassment but no concrete action was taken to stop the
Without any thorough investigation, the employer did not
fulfill his obligations;
The fact that the complainant was on disability leave did not
relieve the employer from his obligation to investigate;
The employer stopped all communication with Mrs. Rioux, after
she left on disability leave; this shows indifference towards the
31% of Quebec workers have already been witnesses or victims of
psychological harassment at work. Three factors play a key role in
such situations: individual, organizational and social factors. How
does a business manage the risks related to psychological
harassment at work?
With a prevention policy;
With a conflict resolution mechanism;
How does an enterprise react when facing a complaint of
psychological harassment at work?
Proactive management, focusing on the causes of psychological
harassment can reduce the costs related by those situations. For
example: less turnover, less absenteeism and less legal costs.
Having policies that reflect the image of your business is a
strategic tool in the preventive management of psychological
harassment but also in the satisfaction of the obligations of the
employer under the Act respecting labor standards.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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