Bill 168, an addition to the Ontario Health and Safety Act
("OHSA"), became law on June 15, 2010. Bill 168 requires
all employers, regardless of size, to implement programs and
policies that deal with workplace violence, bullying, harassment
and even domestic violence that might occur in the workplace.
It's been years since business owners and operators were
first asked to address harassment in the workplace. High profile
cases involving executives, media personalities and politicians
(LOTS of politicians...) have created a heightened awareness of the
importance of creating and maintaining a workplace that is free of
harassment and discrimination for everyone.
Canadian businesses are required to implement policies that do
not tolerate discriminatory attitudes. Ontario laws, as well as the
moral and ethical requirements inherent in these issues, have
entrenched safety in Ontario workplaces, making it the highest
It would seem that Bill 168 and its requirements should prompt,
at most, a cursory look at policies. Perhaps it would spur
discussion with company leaders and managers reinforcing the
importance of these issues. After all, everyone in your company
treats each other with respect and dignity because that's the
example you set. No one would ever feel threatened or discriminated
against in your company, right?
Not so fast. While the great majority of business owners and
managers do indeed lead their companies in an exemplary fashion,
that's not enough.
It is highly significant that Bill 168 was an addition to the
Ontario Health and Safety Act. Among other things, the OHSA states
that employers may face inspections on a regular and unscheduled
basis. Inspections can occur at any time.
Therefore, it is important to make sure that your workplace is
safe and that the required committees and infrastructure are in
place. As it relates to Bill 168, this means that employers must be
able to demonstrate that all staff members have been trained on
what Bill 168 means and that the appropriate risk assessments have
On a nice summer day in 2011, Soberman's Human Resources
Manager arrived at our offices to find a friendly, but very
business-like, inspector from the Ministry waiting for her in our
lobby. We had been selected for a random inspection for Bill 168
Where were our records with respect to Bill 168 training? Who
had attended? What was the content of the training? Where was the
risk assessment document that we had prepared and circulated? And
where were the results?
The good news was that we had trained all firm members,
beginning with our partners. Our policy was in our firm procedures,
accessible both in hard copy and on our intranet. We circulated a
risk assessment document, asking specifically whether anyone had
ever felt unsafe or uncomfortable while working at the firm, and
the results of the survey were readily available for the
And if we had not done all of these things? We could face
penalties for not complying with Bill 168 that can cost up to
$25,000 for individuals and up to $500,000 for corporations. The
human cost of not paying attention to the crucial issues of
workplace harassment, bullying and violence is incalculable.
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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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