May 7, 2015

Failing to provide a workplace free of bullying and harassment, including failing to investigate and respond appropriately to complaints, can expose employers to significant liability under human rights and occupational health and safety law. What steps can be taken to prevent workplace violence, harassment, and threats? What are the components of a proper investigation into allegations of bullying or harassment? How should victims be protected against reprisal for making a complaint? How should employees who engage in harassing or violent behaviour be disciplined? What if the harassing or violent behaviour is caused by an employee’s mental health disability? In this session, a panel of experts will address these and other questions, including:

  • Understanding legal obligations and potential remedial costs: What are workplace parties’ legal obligations regarding violence, bullying, and harassment? What obligations are created by human rights legislation? Occupational health and safety law? Workers’ compensation legislation? What types of behaviour meet the legal definition of harassment? What remedial relief may be sought by a victim of harassment under occupational health and safety law, workers’ compensation law, human rights law, or in the courts? How might remedial considerations influence an employee’s choice of litigation forum? If a matter can be resolved at arbitration, will the courts or human rights tribunals decline jurisdiction?
  • Supporting and promoting a harassment-free workplace: What policies, practices, and programs can be implemented to guard against workplace bullying and harassment? Should workplaces adopt the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace? What duties and responsibilities of the employer, union, and employees should be detailed in the collective agreement and/or a workplace violence and harassment policy?
  • Investigating incidents: What procedures should be established for investigating incidents of bullying and harassment? Do employers have a legal obligation to investigate every complaint of harassment? When should an external investigator be hired? What interim measures should be taken while the investigation is ongoing? Can an employee refuse to work on the basis of bullying or harassment concerns? What confidentiality safeguards should employers implement during the investigation process? How should complainants, respondents, and witnesses be protected against reprisal? Who is entitled to receive the investigation report and any evidence arising from the investigation?
  • Assessing discipline: What factors do arbitrators consider when assessing the reasonableness of discipline for bullying and harassment? Where discharge is overturned at arbitration, when will damages be ordered in lieu of reinstatement? What steps should an employer take if an employee’s harassing behaviour is known, or suspected, to be linked to a mental health disability? Should discipline be imposed? Is accommodation necessary?