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Bullying and Harassment in the Workplace: Check your Policies

Last week, we discussed a recent Ontario case where four former employees of Soulpepper Theatre filed sexual harassment suits alleging sexual touching, groping and harassment over a period 13 years. Harassment in the workplace can take many different forms, and despite the recent Hollywood #TimesUp campaign, bullying remains a serious and persistent problem in the workplace. 

Bullying and harassment in the employment context is most often defined as conduct by a “person” that the person knows or reasonably ought to know would cause an employee to be humiliated or intimidated. A “person” can include the employer, supervisor, co-worker, client, member of the public or anyone an employee comes into contact with in the workplace. Given recent caselaw, employers may also be under a legal duty to protect employees from work-related harassment on social media. 

Bullying and harassment is not:

  • reasonable disciplinary actions;
  • a difference of opinion;
  • constructive feedback; or
  • a complaint made through established policies.

In BC, pursuant to the Occupational Health and Safety policies under the Workers Compensation Act, employers are responsible for: 

  • developing policies on bullying and harassment;
  • minimizing bullying and harassment;
  • developing procedures to report incidents and complaints;
  • informing employees of relevant policies and processes;
  • training employees, including supervisors, to recognize, prevent and report harassment; and
  • conducting an annual review of policies and procedures.

Employees may be entitled to compensation from WorkSafeBC for mental disorders if they are shown to be caused by bullying and harassment in the workplace. Employees may also seek damages from the employer for mental suffering related to workplace harassment under the BC Human Rights Code.

The Labour and Employment Group at Lawson Lundell LLP has experience in all aspects of workplace bullying and harassment policies and regulations. We can assist with:

  • developing written policies regarding bullying and harassment which comply with employers’ legal obligations;
  • drafting procedures for reporting and investigating bullying and harassment complaints;
  • reviewing policies and procedures periodically;
  • training employees including supervisors; and
  • responding to complaints including union grievances.

About Us

Lawson Lundell's Labour and Employment Blog provides updates on the most recent legal  developments impacting the Canadian workplace and offers practical tips for employers. We cover a range of topics, including labour relations, employment law, collective bargaining, human rights, employment standards, employment equity, workers' compensation, business immigration, privacy, occupational health and safety and pensions and employee benefits. 




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