Ontario's Bill 132 introduced new sexual harassment related
provisions to the Occupational Health & Safety Act
(the "Act") including a new mandatory
investigation obligation in the case of alleged or suspected
workplace (including sexual) harassment. The changes take effect
September 8, 2016.
The Ministry of Labour has published its own "Code of
Practice" under Bill 132, establishing a set of
guidelines for compliance with the amended version of the Act.
The Code is divided into four Parts.
Part I outlines the requirements for a written
Workplace Harassment (including sexual harassment) Policy.
Part II sets out in detail the requirements for
a written Workplace Harassment Program, including protocols for the
reporting of harassment, the investigation and handling of
complaints and the preservation of all records (including the
complaint itself, the investigation record and witness statements,
as well as the results of the investigation and any corrective
Part III deals with the employer's new
statutory obligation to conduct "appropriate"
investigations into all incidents or complaints of workplace
harassment (including sexual harassment), mandating that
investigations be completed within 90 days of the of the incident
or complaint, absent extenuating circumstances.
The Code requires the appointment of an objective
investigator and sets out the following 7 required
"steps" of the investigation:
maintenance of confidentiality and
thorough interview of the complaining
employee and alleged harasser
procedural fairness and opportunity
collection and review of relevant
thorough interview of witnesses
adequate record keeping
preparation of a report for the
Significantly, the Code mandates that the
"results" of the investigation (different form the
"report" prepared for the employer's use), must be
provided to the person alleging harassment as well as the alleged
harasser, in writing. These results (a summary of the findings of
the investigation) must be delivered within 10 days of the
investigation being concluded. Corrective action, if any, must also
be communicated to the alleged harasser within 10 days of the
conclusion of the investigation.
Part IV of the Code sets out requirements for
the training and instruction of employees on the content of
Workplace Harassment Policies and Programs, including the
identification of harassment, the reporting of incidents or
complaints, and the procedures in place for investigation of
harassment and the reporting of results.
All Ontario employers must review their existing Workplace
Harassment Policies and Programs (or implement new ones) in order
to ensure compliance with the new requirements of the Act.
While the Ministry of Labour says that strict adherence to the
Code of Practice is not the only route to
compliance, employers choosing to either follow the Code
or deviate from its specific requirements would be wise to do so
with the advice or assistance of counsel knowledgeable in the
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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