In March of this year the Ontario government published a 40 page
Action Plan to combat sexual violence and
harassment in both our workplaces and communities. The Action Plan
contains 13 specific commitments by the Ontario government, each
aimed at stopping sexual violence and harassment. Among these
commitments is the introduction of legislation to strengthen
existing legislation for our workplaces, school campuses, housing,
and civil claims. Bill 132, introduced on October 27, 2015,
represents the first step to achieve this goal in Ontario
communities and workplaces.
If the Bill passes through the legislature in its current state
it will affect all employers through amendments to the Occupational
Health and Safety Act, and Ontario colleges and universities
through amendments to the Ministry of Training, Colleges, and
Occupational Health and Safety Act
Amendments to the OHSA begin by adding a definition for
"workplace sexual harassment" and including workplace
sexual harassment in the more general definition of workplace
harassment. The proposed definition for workplace sexual harassment
is provided below:
(a) engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct against
a worker in a workplace because of sex, sexual orientation, gender
identity or gender expression, where the course of comment or
conduct is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome,
(b) making a sexual solicitation or advance where the person
making the solicitation or advance is in a position to confer,
grant or deny a benefit or advancement to the worker and the person
knows or ought reasonably to know that the solicitation or advance
In addition to above, Bill 132 bolsters the Violence and
Harassment section of the OHSA (Part III.0.1) by describing
additional required components of a workplace harassment program.
Some of these new components of section 32.06 include:
How to report incidents when the
employer or supervisor is the harasser;
How information obtained from a
complaint or incident will be kept confidential; and
How results of an investigation will
The current version of section 32.07 (requiring information and
instruction on a workplace harassment policy and program) would
become section 32.08 and the new section introduces more robust
Investigation into incidents and
complaints of workplace harassment
Providing investigation results to
the worker who has allegedly experienced workplace; harassment and
the alleged harasser; and
A review of workplace harassment
program annually, at a minimum.
Lastly, Bill 132 would create a new power for Ministry of Labour
inspectors, to require that an independent 3rd party investigation
be conducted. The investigation and report would be completed at
the employer's expense.
Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities Act
The current draft of Bill 132 would implement new requirements
for policy creation, student input, and the collection of
statistics related to sexual violence at Ontario colleges and
universities. As well, a fairly broad definition of sexual violence
would be added and includes sexual harassment:
"sexual violence" means any sexual act or act
targeting a person's sexuality, whether the act is physical or
psychological in nature, that is committed, threatened or attempted
against a person without the person's consent, and includes
sexual assault, sexual harassment, stalking, indecent exposure,
voyeurism and sexual exploitation.
The new sections would require that every college and university
have a specific sexual violence policy that addresses how the
institution will respond to incidents and complaints and other
issues which may be required by further regulation. Furthermore,
institutions must receive input from the student body when
developing the policy and report to the Minister the number of
times supports, services and accommodation relating to sexual
violence are requested.
These proposed amendments may never come to fruition or could
look drastically different if they pass through 2nd and 3rd
reading. Regardless, it is important that employers are aware of
impending changes and consider what adjustments may be needed to
their internal policies and programs. As Bill 132 progresses, CCP
will provide updates regarding any developments relevant to
employers. The lawyers at CCP can advise how these provisions will
affect the way you do business and ensure that you remain compliant
with affected employment related legislation.
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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