previously reported, the amendments to the Occupational
Health and Safety Act introduced by Ontario's Sexual
Violence and Harassment Legislation, An Act to amend various
statutes with respect to sexual violence, sexual harassment,
domestic violence and related matters, come into force on
September 8, 2016.
By way of reminder, the OHSA amendments expand the Act's
definition of "workplace harassment" to expressly include
"workplace sexual harassment". The amendments also impose
additional obligations on employers with respect to their workplace
harassment policies, programs and investigations.
With September 8th quickly approaching, the countdown
to compliance is on and employers must take the following steps to
ensure they meet the Act's requirements:
Review and revise existing workplace harassment policies and
programs to ensure that they specifically contemplate
"workplace sexual harassment".
Work in consultation with the joint health and safety committee
or health and safety representative (if applicable) to develop and
maintain a written workplace harassment program, which sets
reporting measures and procedures for workers to report
incidents of workplace harassment to their employer or supervisor
and, in the event that the employer or supervisor is the alleged
harasser, to a person other than the employer or supervisor;
how incidents or complaints of workplace harassment will be
investigated and dealt with;
how information obtained about an incident or complaint of
workplace harassment, including identifying information about any
individuals involved, will not be disclosed unless the disclosure
is necessary for investigating, taking corrective action, or by
how a worker who has allegedly experienced workplace harassment
and the alleged harasser (if s/he is a worker of the employer) will
be informed of the results of the investigation and of corrective
action that has been, or will be, taken.
Establish internal timelines and practices to ensure that the
written workplace harassment program is reviewed as often as
necessary, but at least annually.
Ensure that internal processes are developed and implemented
conduct investigations into all incidents and complaints of
workplace harassment; and
inform the workers involved in the incident and/or complaint of
the results of the investigation and of any corrective action that
has been, or will be, taken as a result.
Develop and maintain resources that provide workers with
information and instruction on the contents of the workplace
harassment policy and program.
In addition to the OHSA's existing enforcement mechanisms,
the amended Act grants inspectors the power to order an employer to
have an impartial third party conduct a workplace harassment
investigation, at the employer's expense. Notably, the OHSA
amendments do not detail the circumstances in which an inspector
can, or will, issue such an order.
The Ontario Government's It's Never Okay Action
Plan, which led to the OHSA amendments, indicates that the
Government intends to issue a new "Code of Practice" for
employers, which will describe in more detail the steps that
employers must take to comply with the OHSA amendments. The Code of
Practice is expected to be released on or around the September
8th coming into force date and will hopefully provide
more guidance on the implementation of the Act. Stay tuned as
we will provide a further update upon its release.
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