December 10, 2020

While bullying and harassment are often easily identified, workplace parties are regularly required to address cases involving behaviour that is more difficult to characterize. Employers and unions must be prepared to meet the challenges associated with these cases and to recognize and respond to bullying and harassment in more ambiguous circumstances. In this session, experts will clarify the legal definitions of bullying and harassment, provide guidance on how to handle borderline cases, and explore practical measures for promoting respect in the workplace.

  • What types of behaviours meet the legal definitions of bullying and harassment? Can a single episode constitute bullying or harassment, or is a series of discrete incidents required?
  • Are subjective perceptions or intentions relevant to whether conduct is considered bullying or harassment? Can a “tough” workplace culture excuse conduct that would otherwise be defined as bullying or harassment?
  • What is the difference between personality conflicts and bullying or harassment? Can rudeness, a poor attitude, or insensitivity amount to bullying or harassment?
  • How do adjudicators differentiate between legitimate management actions and bullying or harassment? When might an aggressive management style cross the line and become bullying or harassment? Can performance management or a workplace investigation ever constitute bullying or harassment?
  • How should an employer handle a claim of bullying or harassment against a supervisor by an employee who is sensitive to criticism or is simply unhappy being managed?
  • What is the legal definition of sexual harassment? What factors do adjudicators consider in determining whether conduct amounts to sexual harassment? How important are contextual factors such as tone, non-verbal behaviours, and the history of the relationship?
  • What factors should employers consider before taking disciplinary action for bullying or harassment? Is discipline always the best response to borderline cases?
  • What steps can employers and unions take to address the underlying causes of bullying and harassment and create a more respectful work environment?