The Canada Labour Code (the "Code")
requires that every federally regulated employer have policies
on the prevention of workplace violence and sexual harassment.
Workplace violence is any action, conduct, threat or gesture of
a person towards an employee in their workplace that can reasonably
be expected to cause harm, injury or illness to that employee. The
Code requires employers to "take the prescribed steps
to prevent and protect against violence in the
Part XX of the Canada Occupational Health and Safety
Regulations (the "Regulations") requires
employers to take the following steps:
establish a framework for consultation with the policy
committee, or alternatively the workplace committee or health and
develop the workplace violence prevention policy and post it at
a place accessible to all employees;
identify all the factors that contribute to workplace
assess the potential for workplace violence;
implement systemic controls as soon as practicable, but not
later than 90 days after assessment to eliminate or minimize the
risk of workplace violence;
establish and implement procedures for follow-up maintenance of
corrective measures, including measures to respond to unforeseen
risk of workplace violence; and
at least every three years review the effectiveness of the
workplace violence prevention measures, and update them whenever
there is a change that compromises the effectiveness of those
The workplace violence prevention policy must set out the
following obligations of the employer:2
to provide a safe, healthy and violence-free workplace;
to dedicate sufficient attention, resources and time to address
factors that contribute to workplace violence, including but not
limited to, bullying, teasing, and abusive and other aggressive
behaviour to prevent and protect against it;
to communicate to its employees information in its possession
about factors contributing to workplace violence; and
to assist employees who have been exposed to workplace
Furthermore, employers have the following additional
to develop in writing, implement and make employees aware of
emergency notification procedures for workplace violence;
provide training on the factors that contribute to workplace
violence to employees exposed to workplace violence or the risk of
workplace violence, and keep a record of such training for two
investigate any incidents of workplace violence.
The Code defines sexual harassment as any conduct,
comment, gesture, contact of a sexual nature likely to cause
offence or humiliation or that might, on reasonable grounds, be
perceived as placing a condition of a sexual nature on employment
or on any opportunity for training or promotion.4
The Code requires federally regulated employers to make
reasonable effort to ensure that no employee is subject to sexual
harassment.5 Furthermore, every employer must issue a
policy statement concerning sexual harassment after consulting with
its employees or the employees'
The policy statement must include a definition of sexual
harassment substantially the same as the one in the Code,
and the following statements:
every employee is entitled to employment free from sexual
the employer will make every reasonable effort to ensure that
no employee is subjected to sexual harassment;
the employer will take such disciplinary measures as the
employer deems appropriate against any person under the
employer's director who subjects an employee to sexual
explaining how sexual harassment complaints may be brought to
the attention of the employer;
the employer will not disclose the name of a complainant or the
circumstances related to the complaint to any person except where
disclosure is necessary for the purposes of investigating the
complaint or taking disciplinary measures in relation to the
informing employees of their right to make a complaint under
the Canadian Human Rights Act.
Furthermore, employers are obligated make each person under the
employer's direction aware of the policy statement by posting
and keeping copies of the policy statement where it is likely to be
seen by employees.7
1. Code at section
2.Regulations at section 20.3.
3. Regulations at sections 20.8, 20.9, and
4. Code at section 247.1.
5. Code at section 247.3.
6. Code at section 247.4.
7. Code at section 247.4.
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.
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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