Pursuant to the British Columbia Workers' Compensation
Act ("Act"), every employer has a duty to
ensure the health and safety of its workers,1 which
includes taking all reasonable steps to prevent or otherwise
minimize workplace bullying and harassment, and eliminate or
otherwise minimize workplace violence.
Bullying and Harassment
Bullying and harassment 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 or the place of employment.2 Person
means anyone workers come into contact with at the workplace,
including a co-worker, a supervisor, the employer, a client or the
WorkSafeBC considers the following to be reasonable steps for
employers to take in order to meet their legal obligations to
prevent and address workplace bullying and
developing a policy statement with
respect to workplace bullying and harassment not being acceptable
taking steps to prevent where
possible, or otherwise minimize, workplace bullying and
developing and implementing
procedures for workers to report incidents or complaints of
workplace bullying and harassment, including procedures for workers
to report on the employer, supervisors, or persons acting on behalf
of the employer;
developing and implementing
procedures for how the employer will deal with complaints, such as
investigations, follow-up and record keeping;
informing workers of the
employer's policy statement and the employer's steps to
prevent or minimize workplace bullying and harassment;
training supervisors and workers on
how to recognize the potential for bullying and harassment, respond
to it, the procedures for reporting, and how the employer will deal
with incidents and complaints;
annually reviewing (1), (2), (3), and
adhering to its own policies and
procedures, i.e. not engaging in bullying and harassment of workers
Every supervisor also has a duty to take all reasonably steps to
ensure the health and safety of workers under their supervision.
Accordingly, supervisors have obligations not to engage in the
bullying and harassment of workers, other supervisors, the employer
or persons acting on the employer's behalf, and to apply and
comply with the employer's policies and procedures on bullying
The Occupational Health and Safety Regulation (the
"Regulations") defines "violence" as
the attempted or actual exercise by a person, other than a worker,
of any physical force so as to cause injury to a worker, and
includes any threatening statement or behaviour which gives a
worker reasonable cause to believe that he or she is at risk of
Employers must perform a risk assessment in any workplace in
which a risk of injury to workers from violence arising out of
their employment may be present.5
If workers are at risk of injury from violence, employers must
establish procedures, policies and work environment arrangements to
eliminate the risk to workers from violence, and if elimination is
not possible then to minimize the risk to workers.6
Furthermore, employers have a duty to inform workers who may be
exposed to the risk of violence of the nature and extent of the
risk, which includes providing workers with information related to
the risk of violence from persons who have a history of violent
behaviour and whom workers are likely to encounter in the course of
their work. Employers must instruct these workers:7
the means for recognition of the
potential for violence;
the procedures, policies and work
environment arrangements which have been developed to minimize or
effectively control the risk to workers from violence;
the appropriate response to incidents
of violence, including how to obtain assistance; and
procedures for reporting,
investigating and documenting incidents of violence.
If a worker reports an injury or adverse symptom as a result of
an incident of violence, the employer must ensure the worker is
advised to consult a physician of the worker's choice for
treatment or referral.
1. The Act at s. 115.
2. Policy Item D3-115-2.
3. Policy Item D3-115-2.
4. The Act at section 117 and Policy
5. The Regulations at section 4.28.
6. The Regulations at section 4.29.
7. The Regulations at section 4.30.
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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