Workplace Harassment and Workplace Violence

Are you an employer having to deal with harassment or violence in the workplace? It is important to address workplace harassment and violence properly. Without the right protocol, these behaviours can prevent your employees from doing their jobs effectively. And, in turn, this will impact your business operations.

It is an employer’s responsibility to develop and implement a policy to address workplace harassment and violence. Not only is this your obligation, but also, employers must ensure your staff feel safe and work in a health environment.

Understanding the Law

First and foremost, it is important to understand what workplace harassment and violence means. These definitions are set out in the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA).

“Workplace Harassment” means,

  • 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.

“Workplace Violence” means,

  • The exercise of physical force by a person against a worker, in a workplace, that causes or could cause physical injury to the worker;
  • An attempt to exercise physical force against a worker, in a workplace, that could cause physical injury to the worker; or
  • A statement or behaviour that it is reasonable for a worker to interpret as a threat to exercise physical force against the worker, in a workplace, that could cause physical injury to the worker.

When harassment in the workplace happens, employers must recognize, investigate, and manage these situations according to the OHSA’s Code of Practice. These compliance standards are set out by the Ministry of Labour.

What is your responsibility as an employer?

With regard to workplace violence and harassment under the OHSAemployers must:

  • Provide a policy in writing;
  • Date and sign the policy;
  • Review these policies annually (at a minimum);
  • Display the policy in a conspicuous place, visible to employees; and
  • Develop and maintain a program to implement the policy and address related situations.

Specifically, you must prepare your workplace policy and harassment program with the Joint Health and Safety Committee, or Health and Safety Representative. And, in particular, you should provide the following information:

  • Your commitment to providing a safe and healthy workplace;
  • Definitions of workplace harassment, sexual harassment, and workplace violence;
  • A zero-tolerance for workplace harassment and violence;
  • The program as applicable to all workers;
  • Protocol for reporting and investigating; and
  • A confidentiality statement.

Don’t wait to ask about workplace harassment or workplace violence.

We can answer your questions about employee management, or any other employment-related questions you might have. Employer Line is here to help small business owners with any questions about preventing and/or handling incidents of violence or harassment in the workplace. Call us today – 1-833-247-3650.