Ontario employers are required to have new and updated workplace harassment policies, procedures and training in place by September 8, 2016.
Bill 132, Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act (Supporting Survivors and Challenging Sexual Violence and Harassment), requires Ontario employers to do the following:
- Review (and if necessary, amend) workplace harassment policy to ensure that it includes workplace sexual harassment;
- Investigate incidents and complaints of workplace harassment;
Inform the parties to a workplace harassment complaint of the results of the investigation and any corrective action that will occur; and
- For employers that regularly employ 20 or more employees – Involve the employer’s Joint Health and Safety Committee in developing written programs and procedures, regarding workplace harassment, which address:
- The reporting of incidents – ensure that each harassment complaint is taken seriously – including measures and procedures for workers to report incidents of workplace harassment to a person other than the employer or supervisor, if the employer or supervisor is the alleged harasser;
- The investigation process – how information obtained about an incident or complaint of workplace harassment, including identifying information about any individuals involved, will not be disclosed unless the disclosure is necessary for investigation, taking corrective action or by law;
- Training under the programs and procedures – Employer must ensure that its team understand the terms and definitions in the new legislation; and
- An annual review of the programs and procedures.
Bill 132 also clarifies that reasonable action taken by an employer or supervisor relating to the management and direction of its workplace is not workplace harassment. A Ministry of Labour inspector now has the power to order an employer to conduct an investigation by an impartial third party and obtain a written report by that party, all at the employer’s expense.
Bill 132 does not specify the circumstances in which an inspector can order an employer to conduct such an investigation and RCC will seek clarification from the Ministry of Labour on this aspect of the legislation. Again, the deadline for employers to act is September 8, 2016.