Employers will soon have expanded mandatory obligations in regards to how claims of harassment and violence are handled in the workplace. Bill C-65, which is an amendment to the Canada Labour Code expected to come into force in 2020, modifies the current framework in place under the Canada Labour Code dealing with harassment and violence. The goal of the new legislation is to strengthen the law to ensure prevention, response, and support are all available to employees experiencing harassment and violence at work.

Presently, the current law only requires employers to take measures to prevent and protect employees against workplace violence. Bill C-65 will require measures to be implemented for workplace harassment as well. Employers will be required to respond to occurrences of harassment and violence and provide support to the employees affected. The nature of the prevention and protection measures themselves will have to shift because the bill expands the definition of harassment and violence in the Code:

harassment and violence mean any action, conduct or comment, including of a sexual nature, that can reasonably be expected to cause offence, humiliation or other physical or psychological injury or illness to an employee, including any prescribed action, conduct or comment (amended section 122(1))

The bill will be expanding harassment and violence training obligations under the Canada Labour Code. Employers will be required to ensure that all employees are trained in the prevention of workplace harassment and violence. Employers will also be required to undergo this training.

The resolution and complaint process in regards to workplace violence and harassment under the bill will become focused on the qualifications of the people designated to hear the complaints, and the privacy of the complainants. Employees can make workplace harassment and violence complaints to their supervisor or to a person designated in the workplace harassment and violence prevention policy. Employers must ensure that the person designated to receive the harassment and violence complaints possesses the requisite knowledge, training, and experience.

The privacy of complainants is addressed under the bill as well. Health and safety committees and representatives will now be prohibited from participating in workplace harassment and violence investigations. Representatives of the committees cannot be provided with any information that reveals the identity of a person involved in an occurrence of harassment and violence in the workplace.

If a complaint ends up unresolved, the bill’s changes will now allow an unresolved complaint to be referred directly to the Minister of Labour for investigation. The Minister will have to investigate unless the Minister believes the complaint has been adequately dealt with in a procedure established under the Code or another Act or agreement, or the matter is considered an abuse of process. Former employees with unresolved workplace harassment and violence complaints can also refer a complaint directly to the Minister.

The bill will also repeal sections of the Code that allow the Minister to exempt employers from the requirement to establish a workplace committee where the nature of work is free from risks to health and safety. The new changes will only allow exemptions if employers have an alternative to a workplace health and safety committee in place.

Bill C-65’s amendments will institute mandatory requirements that will require employers to significantly adjust or overhaul the measures they have in place to handle workplace harassment and violence complaints.

If you have questions about the incoming changes under Bill C-65, please contact our office today.