What is Workplace Violence and Harassment? – Occupational Health and Safety Act

Written by on August 29, 2022 in Employment Law Blog, Employment Law Issues
Workplace Violence and Harassment

Employers in Ontario have a duty to keep their employees safe. This duty includes protecting workers as much as possible from violence and harassment in the workplace.

According to the Occupation Health and Safety Act (OHSA), workplace violence includes not just physical violence but also harassment, threatening behavior, and intimidation on the worksite. Workplace harassment include unwelcome comments, offensive jokes, or conduct including sexual harassment.

Assessing the risk of workplace violence and harassment

Just as employers must assess risks to physical safety in the workplace, it is important that they assess the risks of violence and harassment and put control procedures in place to mitigate these risks. For example, some workers that deal with the public – such as those in the health field or financial industry – likely face greater risk of violence from the public than those who work in an office setting that is not open to the public. Employers must choose the appropriate prevention and mitigation measures such as installing barriers or panic buttons or hiring security guards to protect their workers.

Measures to protect workers from other employees may include conducting background checks on new hires and having formal violence and harassment training along with policies in place.

Policy on workplace violence

Employers in Ontario are required to have a policy on workplace violence along with a program to implement that policy.

The program should include procedures for:

  • Assessing and controlling risks.
  • Getting assistance when there is an incidence of violence or when violence is likely to occur.
  • Reporting incidents of violence in the workplace.
  • Procedures for the employer to investigate and respond to incidents or complaints of violence in the workplace.

Workers who believe that they are in danger of being the victim of workplace violence have the right to refuse work, although for workers whose job it is to protect public safety, this right is limited.

Policy on workplace harassment

Employers in Ontario are also required to have a policy on workplace harassment along with a program to help them implement that policy.

The program should include:

  • Reporting methods for workers being harassed including methods for them to report to someone other than their supervisor or employer if that is the person engaging in the harassment.
  • A procedure for how complaints or incidents of workplace harassment will be investigated and responded to, including how confidentiality will be kept.
  • A process for how the results of the investigation will be reported to both the worker who has filed the complaint and the alleged harasser.

It is the duty of the employer to take every reasonable measure to protect their employees from workplace violence and harassment, and when an incident or complaint occurs, it is their duty to investigate and take reasonable action.

Contact Minken Employment Law today

If you are an employer who needs guidance on development of a workplace violence and harassment policy or advice on responding to an issue – or if you are an employee who believes that your employer has not fulfilled their duty in protecting you in the workplace, we are here to help. Contact us today to speak to a member of our team: 905-477-7011 | Toll-Free: 1-866-477-7011 | contact@minken.com.

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Please note that this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

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