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Do you have work trouble? The Problem of Workplace Harassment and Violence!

Posted on 24 October, 2015 at 22:40


Disagreements and conflicts are common in the workplace. People are diverse, and have divergent opinions, feelings and interests. In a context where multiple people must work together for the same goal, conflicts are inevitable. It is very important however that conflict be properly managed and handled constructively. The problem of workplace violence and harassment is gaining increasing recognition in Ontario Workplaces. Recent changes to the Occupational Health and Safety Act take these challenges into account. This is the first of a series of articles that I am going to do about the issue of workplace violence and harassment.


Harassment refers to a pattern of vexatious conduct that is known or should be known to be unwelcome. It includes a wide variety of unwanted activity from intimidation, to making sexual advances on a co-worker or subordinate. These behaviors are unacceptable in Ontario workplaces, despite a culture in some workplaces which condones this sort of conduct.


An employer has a duty to ensure a safe and harassment free workplace. Increasingly, harassment is being viewed as an occupational hazard that has to be protected against like other workplace hazards. In 2010, the Ontario Legislature amended the Occupational Health and Safety Act to include harassment as one of the issues deserving of the Act’s protection. The protection under the OHSA for workers is limited, but the Act is a good step forward that requires employers to set their mind to the issue of harassment and workplace violence and how it will be prevented.


Under the OHSA, an employer must have an anti-harassment policy in place, and a program to implement the anti-harassment policy. This policy must include a process where workers can complain about workplace harassment. Unfortunately while the Act requires the existence of an anti-harassment policy, it does not require an employer to investigate or take specific action in relation to workplace harassment. This legislation will raise awareness about workplace harassment and hopefully reporting of the issue to the employer. It is hoped that the legislation will improve awareness, prevention, and employer action against workplace harassment. The legislation is however limited in the tools that it provides to a worker who faces workplace harassment.


Next week, I will discuss workplace harassment in more detail, including the application of human rights law to the issue. In future weeks I will address the issue of workplace violence.


DISCLAIMER: This article is intended as general information, and does not replace the advice of a Licenced Paralegal or Lawyer. For advice on your specific case, contact Greanya Legal Services directly.


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