May 31, 2018

Employers and unions alike accept that there is a high cost to low morale – that friction among co-workers lowers productivity – and recognize that the potential legal liability for workplace bullying is increasing. As a result, workplace parties are paying closer attention than ever to workplace behaviours that cause conflict, discontent, or complaints. But how many complaints are simply unfounded? Are some employees just too sensitive? In this session a panel of experts will address these questions, as well as the following:

Difficult personalities/patterns of behaviour:

  • What “personalities” or patterns of behaviour consistently create problems in the workplace? What is the difference between a “personality” and person’s pattern of behaviour? Can difficult people change if given a chance?
  • When will behaviours maladapted to the workplace meet the definition of a “mental disability” and trigger the duty to accommodate under human rights legislation? Are personality disorders legally-recognized disabilities under human rights legislation? What other disabilities may cause difficult or disruptive workplace behaviour?
  • Does the employer always have a duty to inquire as to whether difficult behaviours are related to a mental disability before disciplining employees?
  • Are good “social skills,” or “being a good team player,” bona fide occupational requirements (BFORs)? Will employers find it easier to establish that it would cause them “undue hardship” in cases involving employees’ disabilities that impair their ability to work with others?

The bullying boss:

  • How can you distinguish between a difficult, demanding boss and those abusing their authority? How do you draw the line between bullying and legitimate management actions?
  • Must an employer investigate every harassment complaint directed at a supervisor or manager, or can some complaints be summarily dismissed on the basis that the employee is simply unhappy with being managed?
  • What legal protections do employees have if they are being bullied by a superior? What policies and procedures need to be in place to make these legal protections effective? For example, what should be done to protect employees from reprisal?

Sensitive employees:

  • What is the difference, if any, between employees who “just can’t take criticism” or simply dislike certain management styles and employees who are especially sensitive to criticism or other management actions because of a mental disability?
  • Do employers have a duty to be more sensitive in dealing with individuals with mental disorders that make them especially sensitive to criticism, or is taking direction and criticism a bona fide occupational requirement?
  • Would changing an employee’s supervisor amount to undue hardship for the employer where the supervisor is a source of distress for an employee, even if a reasonable person would not consider the supervisor’s behaviour to be harassment?