In a November 2015 bulletin,
we wrote to advise that the Government of Ontario had put
forward legislation targeted at strengthening workers'
protection from workplace harassment, including sexual
Last week, Bill 132, the Sexual Violence and Harassment
Action Plan Act (Supporting Survivors and Challenging Sexual
Violence and Harassment), 2015 received Royal Assent. While
Bill 132 makes a number of legislative changes, employers should
take particular note of the amendments to Ontario's
Occupational Health and Safety Act
("OHSA") which address workplace harassment (the
definition of which now includes "workplace sexual
The result is that, effective as of September 8,
2016, employers who are subject to the OHSA will
be required to have the following:
A workplace harassment policy which
addresses workplace sexual harassment;
Procedures to enable workers to
report workplace harassment incidents, including to a secondary
individual if the employer or person to whom an incident would
normally be reported is the alleged harasser;
A procedure for investigating
incidents and complaints of workplace harassment;
A procedure for informing both
complainants and alleged harassers of the results of any workplace
harassment investigation, as well as any resulting corrective
action required; and
A procedure for ensuring that
information about an incident or complaint is kept confidential
unless required to conduct an investigation or by law.
Finally, Bill 132 gives OHSA inspectors the power to
order an employer to hire, at its own expense, an impartial third
party to conduct an investigation into an incident of workplace
What this means for Employers
While the September 8, 2016 deadline is almost
six months away, employers should act soon to ensure compliance
with the new legislation. Doing so will likely mean either amending
existing workplace harassment policies or implementing new
More generally, employers should also be vigilant in addressing
actual or potential workplace harassment, including by carefully
investigating any incident or complaint. Training will continue to
be a critical element in ensuring that internal investigators
understand the law, how to conduct a proper investigation, draw
conclusions from the factual findings, write a report and
communicate to the alleged victim and harasser.
The foregoing provides only an overview and does not
constitute legal advice. Readers are cautioned against making any
decisions based on this material alone. Rather, specific legal
advice should be obtained.
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.
A former teacher at Bodwell High School has learned a valuable lesson from the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal— it is not discriminatory for an employer to offer child-related benefits to only employees with children.
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.
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