Bill 132 and Workplace Sexual Harassment

Bill 132, the Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act, addresses sexual violence and sexual harassment as they relate to the workplace. Specifically, it makes significant updates to Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) regarding the obligations for provincially regulated employers with respect to workplace harassment

In the bill, the definition of workplace sexual harassment is broken down into two points:

  1. Engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct against a worker in a workplace because of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, where the course of comment or conduct is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome; or
  2. 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.

What is an employer’s duty under Bill 132?

Employers have always had the obligation to work with a committee or a health and safety representative. Together, the requirement is to create and maintain a written workplace harassment policy. However, Bill 132 adds new responsibilities for employers:

  • When deemed appropriate, employers must conduct investigations into complaints of workplace sexual violence and harassment.
  • Employers are obligated to notify – in writing – employees making allegations of sexual harassment and the accused about investigations and any corrective action required.

Furthermore, changes to the OHSA’s section on workplace harassment now require employers to:

  • Include procedures for employees to report harassment to someone other than their superior, if their superior is the alleged harasser;
  • Detail how personal information gathered during an investigation will remain confidential, except when it’s needed for:
    • The investigation
    • Taking corrective action
    • Disclosure by law
  • Create policy regarding how to disclose the investigation’s written conclusion to employees involved in the harassment complaint. This includes any action required as a result of the investigation.

The Ministry of Labour has the power to compel employers to hire – at the employer’s expense – an impartial investigator to investigate a workplace and produce a report, so it’s important for employers to be proactive and create a compliant policy around workplace sexual harassment.

Do you understand your duties as an employer regarding the Bill 132?

Get direct answers by connecting with our experts today. We’re here to help ensure your small business is operating in accordance with the Ministry of Labour and its various Acts and regulations. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us at 1-888-216-2550. Get your business where it needs to be, so rest assured, you know that yourself, your business, and your employees are fully protected and meeting all standards required by Ontario law.