Recent Developments in Ontario in Employment and Human Rights Law
There were two interesting developments in Ontario this month in employment and human rights law.
1. Changes to the Occupational Health and Safety Act
- Engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct against a worker in a workplace that is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome; or
- Workplace sexual harassment
Bill 132 clarifies that reasonable action taken by an employer in managing or directing the workplace and workers is not work place harassment.
Bill 132 also specifically defines “workplace sexual harassment”as:
- Engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct against a worker in a workplace because of sex, sexual orientation, general identify or gender expressed, where the course of comment or conduct is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome; or
- Making a sexual solicitation or advance where the person making the solicitation or advance is in a position to confer, grant or deny a benefit or advancement to the worker and the person knows or ought reasonably to know that the solicitation or advance is unwelcome.
Bill 132 requires employers to develop written programs, which must be reviewed annually, to respond to issues of harassment and sexual harassment in the work place. Further, employers must provide training to their employees on their workplace harassment policy and program.
The changes to the OHSA will come into force on September 8, 2016.
The amendments to Ontario’s OHSA are similar to the Occupational Health and Safety policies in British Columbia which came into effect in 2013. These policies are pursuant to sections 115, 116, and 117 of the BC Workers Compensation Act, dealing with workplace bullying and harassment. The policies define bullying and harassment, and explain the duties of employers, workers, and supervisors to prevent and address workplace bullying and harassment.