On November 1, 2013, three new Occupational Health and Safety
policies dealing with workplace bullying and harassment under
Sections 115, 116 and 117 of the Workers Compensation Act
(the "Policies") took effect. The Policies define
bullying and harassment and place mandatory requirements on
employers, workers and supervisors to prevent and address it.
Business owners and employers should be reviewing their in-house
policies and procedure manuals as well as their training programs
to ensure compliance with the new law.
Under the Policies, employers, workers and supervisors share the
obligation to prevent or minimize bullying and harassment in the
workplace. Specifically, employers have a duty to train their
supervisors and employees on how to recognize:
the potential for
how to respond to, and
the procedure for reporting
bullying and harassment. A worker has a duty to take reasonable
care to protect the health and safety of himself/herself and other
persons and, as a result, a worker must take all reasonable steps
to prevent, where possible, or otherwise minimize, workplace
bullying and harassment. A supervisor also has the duty to take all
reasonable steps to ensure the health and safety of workers under
their supervision by taking all reasonable steps to prevent or
minimize workplace bullying and harassment.
Bullying and harassment now includes any inappropriate conduct
or comment by a person towards a worker that the person knew or
reasonably ought to have known would cause that worker to be
humiliated or intimidated, but excludes any reasonable action taken
by an employer or supervisor relating to the management and
direction of workers. The Policies are silent as to whether
bullying and harassment must be defined within a business'
internal policies or procedure manuals. As this is an evolving area
of the law, the adoption of a definition that allows flexibility
for both reasonable on-site training and discipline, while
acknowledging that abusive, threatening or targeted behaviour is
not acceptable or tolerated by the employer, is recommended.
Compliance with the new law will be mandatory; however,
WorksafeBC has yet to provide any information with respect to
onsite investigations or compliance checks. In any event, it is
recommended that businesses and employers review their policies and
procedure manuals for the purpose of developing and
procedures for reporting incidents or complaints, including a
procedure for reporting bullying or harassment if the alleged
complaints are against the employer or supervisor;
procedures for investigation, how investigation records are to
be kept and procedures for appropriate corrective action; and
an annual training program for supervisors and workers which
includes the identification of potential bullying and harassment,
the appropriate response and the procedures in place for reporting
these types of incidents.
It is important to note that bullying and harassment includes
any inappropriate conduct or comment by a person towards a
worker, which would also include "customers." It is,
therefore, important to ensure that policy and procedure manuals
outline specific guidelines for reporting and investigating alleged
incidents of bullying and harassment by members of the public
visiting a retail outlet or other business.
The considerations outlined above are not meant to be
exhaustive. WorksafeBC is in the process of developing new
guidelines and a tool kit to assist businesses and employers to
comply with the new law. If you require assistance navigating this
evolving area of the law, we would be happy to be of service.
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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