A supervisor's conduct that falls within his or her normal
work function is not normally "workplace harassment"
under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, the Ontario Labour
Relations Board has said in a welcome decision for employers, even
where it has "unpleasant consequences" for the
A social worker at a nursing home alleged that the Director of
Care harassed her by issuing a written warning and by telling the
social worker many times that she was to document and keep on file
every conversation that she had with residents' family members.
She said that the supervisor also expressed concern with the social
worker's difficulties "keeping up with the Resident
Assessment Protocols". The social worker wrote an
e-mail to various members of senior management complaining about
the Director of Care's treatment of her. Shortly
afterwards, the nursing home terminated her employment. The
social worker then filed a complaint under the OHSA alleging she
suffered a reprisal for raising harassment issues.
The OLRB stated:
"The workplace harassment provisions do not normally
apply to the conduct of a manager that falls within his or her
normal work function, even if in the course of carrying out that
function a worker suffers unpleasant consequences."
"The worst that can be said of what happened is that Ms.
Heinz made a blunt, unflattering assessment of the applicant's
performance and demanded in no uncertain terms that she fulfill
management's work expectations or risk discipline."
The OLRB decided that the Director of
Care's reminders to document discussions with family
members, and comments about the employee's ability to keep up,
were not a "vexatious course of conduct or
comment". Sometimes the exercise of management
functions, which the supervisor was engaging in, has unpleasant
consequences for employees, but that did not necessarily translate
into workplace harassment.
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