Workplace Harassment

As an employer, under subsection 32 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), you must develop policies in regard to workplace harassment, sexual harassment, and workplace violence, as well as programs to implement these policies in the workplace.

What is workplace harassment?

Under the OHSA, workplace harassment is defined 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.”

It also refers to workplace sexual harassment, which the Act further defines as the same type of conduct but in the context of “sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.”

The definition of workplace sexual harassment also includes “making a sexual solicitation or advance where the person making the solicitation or advance is in a position to confer, grant or deny a benefit or advancement to the worker and the person knows or ought reasonably to know that the solicitation or advance is unwelcome.”

Employer Responsibility Against Harassment in the Workplace

In addition to writing and implementing workplace harassment and workplace sexual harassment policies, employers must also be sure to:

  • Write the workplace harassment policy in consultation with the workplace’s joint health and safety committee or health and safety representative;
  • Post the policies in a conspicuous place for workers to see;
  • Ensure employees are aware of and understand the policy; and
  • Review the policies as often as necessary (they should be reviewed at least once per year).

In addition, the employer must implement a workplace harassment program that clearly describes the measures and procedures for reporting incidents of harassment in the workplace, how workplace harassment and sexual harassment incidents or complaints will be investigated and handled, as well as how involved parties will be kept informed of the results of the investigation.

When harassment in the workplace happens, it can also qualify as prohibited psychological or personal under the provisions of the Ontario Human Rights Code.

Third Party Workplace Harassment Investigations

Employers must investigate all incidents and complaints regarding workplace harassment. The Ministry of Labour also has the right to order an employer to engage a third party to oversee investigations of harassment complaints. The third party would be hired at the employer’s expense, and the employer would be required to provide a written report on the investigation.

Are you dealing with a workplace harassment incident or complaint from your employee?

Our health and safety experts at Peninsula are here to help. Call our free employer helpline at 1-888-216-2550. We’re here to help small business owners with any questions about preventing and/or handling incidents of harassment in the workplace.