Bill 132 in Ontario: On September 8, 2016, employers in Ontario must comply with the provisions in Bill 132, which amends the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA). In 2010, Bill 168 created a requirement for employers to create workplace violence and harassment policies and programs. Bill 132 expands on and clarifies certain concepts that were introduced into OHSA as a result of Bill 168. The most significant changes are as follows.
the addition of a definition of “workplace sexual harassment” in the definition of “workplace harassment”;
a new requirement that the workplace harassment program be developed and maintained in consultation with the Joint Health and Safety Committee or a health and safety representative;
a new requirement to conduct an investigation that is “appropriate in the circumstances”;
confidentiality and reporting obligations relating to workplace harassment investigations; and
new power to the Ministry of Labour (MOL) to order an independent workplace harassment investigation at the employer’s expense.
How does this impact your business? To be in compliance with the new legislation, employers in Ontario must do the following:
1. Review and update policies on workplace violence and harassment to ensure that the definition of workplace sexual harassment is specifically addressed.
2. Ensure there are clearly defined mechanisms for making a complaint:
Employees must have the ability to report an allegation of workplace harassment to someone other than their supervisor or manager in the event he/she is involved in the complaint.
3, Develop a consistent process and procedure to investigate complaints and report the results:
Under Bill 132, employers have an obligation to investigate complaints in a “manner appropriate in the circumstances”. While there is no clear description of what manner of investigation would be appropriate in every circumstance, employers should at least have a consistent practice in place and ensure managers and individuals who may be required to investigate an allegation of workplace harassment (including sexual harassment) are trained in their obligations.
4. Employers are now required to provide written results of the investigation, including any corrective measures that may be taken, to the complainant and the alleged harasser. With these new reporting requirements, employers must find a balance between privacy concerns and the obligation to provide the required information.
5. Emphasize the importance of taking complaints seriously:
Bill 132 provides the Ministry with the ability to order employers to engage a third party to investigate complaints of workplace harassment, a cost which will be borne solely by the employer. In order to mitigate this risk, it is important to ensure that incidents and complaints are taken seriously and all actions taken by the employer to investigate the complaint are well documented.
6. Create a plan to train all employees and managers on workplace violence and harassment and ensure the policy is reviewed at least annually.