Bullying is a form of unacceptable workplace behaviour
SAFE WORK ENVIRONMENT
Occupational Health and Safety Act
It can ruin morale and create an office environment that leaves people feeling miserable, targeted and unsafe. Bullying can take the form of degrading comments, spreading rumours, isolating or ignoring an employee, name calling or tampering with personal belongings, to name a few.
Bullying can be a form of harassment under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Employers therefore have a duty to provide a safe work environment free of harassment, and to implement various procedures to achieve that goal. Employers need to develop policies explaining what constitutes workplace bullying and how it will be disciplined in the office. Employers should take positive steps to educate all employees about bullying behaviour, and to explain what options are available to them if they are bullied. Further, employers have a responsibility to properly investigate complaints of bullying or else they could be liable for a failure to protect their employees.
If you have been bullied at work, seek guidance from the human resources department or follow the steps outlined in your office’s workplace bullying and harassment policies, if applicable. Employers should take all complaints very seriously. Ontario courts have awarded tens of thousands of dollars in damages to a bullied employee when the employer failed to properly investigate a bullying complaint. The investigator was biased, untrained and lacked thoroughness, and the company’s internal policies were ignored. It is always important to keep detailed records of bullying activity. This should include the parties involved, any witnesses, date, time, location, the events that transpired between the parties and any other relevant information. Employers should maintain open lines of communication with all employees, in order to foster an environment where people feel comfortable speaking up about bullying behaviour. It is worthwhile to provide anti-bullying training for all employees, including sharing information about what to do if they experience workplace bullying. Please note that the above information does not constitute legal advice. It is general information about the law. If you require legal advice with an employment issue, please contact the experts at Ball Professional Corporation.
Canadian Employment Law
Mr. Ball is author of the authoritative and definitive text Canadian Employment Law - published by Canada Law Book (a division of Thomson Reuters). The text is used and cited by lawyers, law schools and judges across Canada.
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