In March of 2015, the Ontario Government presented its strategy to tackle sexual violence and harassment in Ontario. That plan, entitled “It’s Never Okay, An Action Plan to Stop Sexual Violence and Harassment” can be found here.
Legislation coming into force on September 8, 2016 represents a step forward for that action plan. The Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act, 2016 (Bill 138) is designed to (among other things) provide protection to students and workers from the threat of sexual violence and harassment on campus or in the workplace. The legislation attempts to achieve this goal through amendments to six government acts. Most important of these amendments, for businesses are changes to the Occupational Health and Safety Act (“OHSA”).
Most employers are already aware of their obligation under the OHSA (Bill 168) to create workplace violence and harassment policies and programs, implement a complaint procedure, investigate complaints, and to undertake workplace violence risk assessments and warn employees of certain individuals with a violent history.
Bill 132 adds a layer to the OHSA to include a definition of “workplace sexual harassment” and now requires employers to address all complaints of workplace harassment, including sexual harassment, and take reasonable steps to ensure that employees experience zero harassment—sexual or otherwise—within the workplace.
For private career colleges and publically-funded colleges and Universities, the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities Act and the Private Career Colleges Act are amended so that every publicly-funded college, university and private career college in Ontario must develop a stand-alone policy on sexual violence, and review that policy—with student input—every three years.
Minken Employment Lawyers would be pleased to assist your business to ensure compliance with this new legislation.