Until recently, domestic violence was a societal problem but not necessarily a workplace health and safety issue. But, on November 12, 2005, Lori Dupont, a nurse at Windsor’s Hôtel-Dieu Grace Hospital, was stabbed to death at work by her former domestic partner. The inquest into this murder resulted in specific legal obligations to address domestic violence as a workplace hazard in Bill 168 amendments to Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act. In this session, experienced labour lawyers will explain these obligations as well as similar obligations in other Canadian jurisdictions and will provide examples of policies designed to address domestic violence as a workplace hazard, including the CAW’s innovative Women’s Advocate program. This session will also provide participants guidance in recognizing the signs of domestic violence and providing support to victims.
- How domestic violence enters the workplace: Generally speaking, what constitutes domestic violence? Does it include threats? What percentage of employees are likely to be experiencing some form of domestic violence at any given time? What percentage of employees will ever experience domestic violence? What percentage of victims of domestic violence are men? What are the common effects of domestic violence in the workplace? What signs may be visible in the workplace that an employee/co-worker/union member is experiencing domestic violence? What factors indicate a victim of domestic violence is at a high risk of being murdered? How can employers and unions conduct a risk assessment regarding domestic violence?
- Legal obligations: What is the rationale behind treating domestic violence like other workplace hazards under health and safety legislation in some jurisdictions? Under the Bill 168 amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety Act, what legal obligation do employers in Ontario have with regard to domestic violence? Must Ontario employers develop separate policies and programs on domestic violence? What “reasonable measures” must an Ontario employer take if it becomes aware of domestic violence? Do employers in other provinces and the federal jurisdictions have similar obligations? In provinces without legislation that specifically addresses domestic violence, have general provisions requiring employers to take reasonable steps to ensure worker health and safety or to prevent workplace violence been interpreted to require employers to protect workers from domestic violence in the workplace? What are an employer’s obligations if two employees are in a domestic violence situation with each other? What steps should an employer take following an incident of domestic violence in the workplace? What are some examples of domestic violence policies that might serve as a template for other employers seeking to meet their legal obligations?
- Providing safety and support: How should organizations develop programs that meet or exceed the legal requirements and provide safety and support in the workplace for victims of domestic violence? What is the role of joint health and safety committees? What is the CAW’s Women’s Advocate program and how does it provide safety and support for victims of domestic violence? What are the key components of the program? How might it assist in meeting occupational health and safety obligations regarding domestic violence? What other legal obligations and practical problems does the program address? Is it a program other unions and/or employers could replicate or emulate? Why should employers support the program or one like it? How can employers and co-workers attempt to provide safety and support to someone who they suspect is the victim of domestic violence but who has not disclosed that she is? What can co-workers do to support victims of domestic violence?