Canada: Are Your Bullying And Harassment Policies And Procedures In Good Shape?

It seems like every day a new story surfaces about allegations of sexual harassment against Hollywood elites and other celebrities. Each time, the online world erupts and anyone with a computer can have their say.  Reputations can be destroyed in hours.  One wonders what would have been done differently. What if there had been the equivalent of a Respectful Workplace Policy or Code of Conduct in Hollywood, setting out expectations on standards of behaviour and reporting mechanisms when transgressions occurred? Would this have been enough to prevent the seemingly widespread misconduct we've been hearing about, or is that wishful thinking, the stuff of Hollywood fairy tales?

While many of us here in the 'real world' may not be able to relate to the goings-on of Hollywood, the fact is that over the past several years there have been many examples of high‑profile companies that have been thrust into the media spotlight when an employee has engaged in sexual harassment or other inappropriate conduct. 'Employees behaving badly' is easy internet fodder and many companies have suffered significant reputational damage when workplace issues have been made public.  Think of the CBC and Jian Gomeshi, or, more recently, the creative writing department at Concordia University.

What the last few years has made clear is that if employees do not feel that their employer is going to effectively handle their concerns around bullying and harassment, or if they feel that nothing is being done to protect them, there is a willingness to go public with concerns. As employment lawyers, we often see cases of employees airing their employers' dirty laundry on social media platforms. Once this happens, companies can find themselves very quickly in the midst of public relations disasters.  We have also seen how effective well-drafted policies and procedures can be in preventing incidents in the first place and then managing the fallout when incidents do occur.  As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Given the current media focus, now is a perfect opportunity to consider what your company is doing with respect to bullying and harassment in the workplace. We recommend that you take an inventory of all policies and procedures that relate to the working environment and consider the following questions:

  1. Are your policies and procedures sufficient to satisfy your legal obligations with respect to bullying and harassment in the workplace? and,
  2. Are your policies and procedures actually creating the working environment that you are striving for? Do they align with the company's core values and principles?

What are the legal requirements?

In determining whether your policies are legally sufficient, consider the legal obligations for employers under both the Workers Compensation Act (the "WCA") and the Human Rights Code (the "Code").

Pursuant to the WCA, bullying and harassment are considered to be workplace hazards.  An employer has a duty to prevent workplace bullying and harassment as part of the duty to ensure the health and safety of its workers.  Pursuant to WorksafeBC policy, an employer must:

  • Develop a policy statement indicating that workplace bullying and harassment are not acceptable or tolerated;
  • Develop and implement a procedure for reporting bullying and harassment including how, when and to whom reports/complaints should be made;
  • Develop and implement procedures for how workplace bullying and harassment will be dealt with including: how and when investigations will be conducted, and what will be included in the investigation; and roles and responsibilities of employers, supervisors, workers and others; and
  • Inform and train workers and supervisors with respect to the policy and procedures.

Often companies will incorporate all of these requirements in a Respectful Workplace or equivalent workplace policy. If you have such a policy, consider if it satisfies the above elements.  If you do not have such a policy, you will need to implement one – now is certainly not the time to fall short in this area.  While precedents and templates are useful as a starting point, you should ensure the policy and procedure you create are appropriate for your particular workplace.

As mentioned above, as well as WorksafeBC obligations, an employer also has a human rights obligation to protect its employees from harassment on the basis of prohibited grounds (e.g. sex, disability, race, gender, religion, etc.). It is possible to have one policy that covers both WCA and Code obligations, but keep in mind that the definition of harassment is different depending on the context. For example, it is possible for conduct to be considered harassment under the WCA but not under the Code. This is another reason why template policies generally are a good starting point but not a complete solution.

Ultimately, an employer's goal should be to prevent any incidents of bullying and harassment. This is a lofty goal and often incidents will occur despite best practices.  When incidents do occur, if there is a clear policy statement and a well-defined procedure in place, there is a better chance that your employees will feel supported, the complaint will be managed effectively, corrective measures will be taken and unwanted publicity can be avoided.  This is a win-win for everyone involved.

Lessons for Employers:

  • Employers have a legal obligation to take all reasonable precautions to prevent bullying and harassment in the workplace. This includes having a policy statement and procedures in place to deal with incidents of bullying and harassment.
  • Consider if your company's policies are compliant with legal obligations and effective in creating the sort of working environment that aligns with your company's values and principles.
  • Template policies are a good starting point but will often fall short of best practice. Policies and procedures should be tailored to suit your company's specific needs. An employment lawyer with expertise in this area can help revise existing policies or create new ones.
  • Having a clearly delineated complaint procedure can reassure your employees that bullying and harassment will be properly addressed if and when they arise.
  • An essential component of an effective policy is regular and consistent training. Best practice is to hold a training/refresher session at least once per year, and have all employees sign off on having completed the training and that they agree to abide by the company's policy.

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.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Danny Bernstein
Events from this Firm
22 Nov 2018, Workshop, Vancouver, Canada

Managing and accommodating employees with disabilities is one of the more complex issues faced by employers today.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions