Workplace Harassment and Violence – Bill 168

July 23, 2015

Bill 168, an amendment that covers violence and harassment in the workplace is not new legislation.  The Act to amend the Occupational Health and Safety Act came into effect June 15, 2010.  Each workplace has subsequently been required to have the necessary policies and procedures in place. The impetus for the bill was to deal with bullying in the workplace that can escalate into violence.

It was just such a case that brought Bill 168  into existence.  The families of Lori Dupont and Theresa Vince lobbied for the bill after Dupont was killed by her ex-boyfriend, Dr. Marc Daniel, in 2005 at Hotel-Dieu Grace Hospital in Windsor, Ont. Dupont and Daniel both worked at the hospital and the hospital was aware Daniel had been harassing Dupont and that the situation was getting worse, but it did not discipline him. Theresa Vince was shot in the face and killed in Chatham in 1996 by a boss who had sexually harassed her for more than a year and against whom she had filed a harassment complaint.

Two of the major elements of Bill 168 are that employers must have policies and procedures in place and these must be reviewed at least once per year.   These kinds of requirements can be onerous on small businesses.  For this reason companies that employ fewer than five regular workers are exempt from the requirement unless ordered to comply by an inspector.   Any business of more than five employees must post and follow their procedures.

One of the key changes brought about by Section 32 of the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act (Ontario OHSA) broadens and extends the definition of workplace harassment beyond what is presently covered under the Ontario Human Rights Code.  The new legislations defines workplace harassment as 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 and not already protected under the Human Rights Code.

Prior to the amendment coming in to effect the HRPA conducted a survey and 75 per cent of respondents supported the legislation, but many members had reservations about how they were going to implement the proposed regulations.  The HRPA has prepared an on-demand webinar for non-members as well as members.

The Ministry of Labour has also prepared a list of resources that can be found here.

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