On October 27, 2015, the Ontario Government introduced
legislation designed to strengthen laws addressing sexual violence
and harassment and to increase protections for complainants.
Bill 132: the Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act
(Supporting Survivors and Challenging Sexual Violence and
Harassment), 2015, is part of the Ontario Government's
broader three year action plan entitled "It's Never Okay:
An Action Plan to Stop Sexual Violence and Harassment", which
was released in March 2015. In addition to the proposed
legislation, as part of its plan the Ontario Government has
committed to launching a public education and awareness campaign,
increasing funding and support for community- and hospital-based
sexual assault and domestic violence treatment centres, and
improving the experience of and legal aid available to sexual
assault survivors in the criminal justice system.
If passed, Bill 132 will create substantial new obligations and
impact the rights of employers, educational institutions, and
landlords. Significant provisions of the proposed legislation
include the following:
Amendments to the Occupational Health & Safety Act
increasing employer obligations with respect to workplace
harassment programs, creating additional duties of employers to
protect workers from workplace harassment, and ensuring that
incidents are appropriately investigated with the results
communicated to complainants and alleged harassers. Inspectors
would also be permitted to order employers to have workplace
harassment investigations conducted by impartial third
Amendments to the Ministry of Training, Colleges, and
Universities Act requiring applicable educational institutions
to develop standalone sexual violence policies and to review these
policies every three years. The polices would need to be created
and reviewed in consultation with students, and educational
institutions would be required to collect and report certain
information related to sexual violence to the Minister of Training,
Colleges and Universities. The required information would include
the number of reported incidents of sexual violence and the number
of times support services are sought by students.
Amendments to the Limitations Act, 2002, the
Compensation for Victims of Crime Act, and the
Residential Tenancies Act, 2006, removing procedural
obstacles and increasing the rights of victims of sexual violence.
These amendments would remove certain limitation periods for civil
proceedings based on sexual assault as well as for compensation
applications to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, and would
allow tenants the right to terminate residential leases on short
notice where the tenants are facing domestic or sexual
Employers, educational institutions, and landlords will want to
pay close attention to the progress of the proposed legislation and
the new obligations it may create.
For more information on Bill 132, the Government's
backgrounder and the current draft legislation can be found here and here, respectively.
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guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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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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