CONFLICT MATTERS: Bill 168 (Violence and harassment in the workplace) 2009

Community Opinion & Analysis Jun 16, 2010 at 12:03 pm

By Cecil Norman, B.Sc. MA

Are you in compliance with Bill 168? On June 15, 2010, Bill 168, the Occupational Health and Safety Amendment Act (Violence and Harassment in the Workplace) 2009, comes into effect.

Employers who do not have a violence and workplace harassment policy posted in their workplaces by June 15, 2010, will be liable for breaking the law under Bill 168.

Bill 168 requires employers to develop comprehensive policies to address workplace violence and harassment and to assess the risk of violence in their workplaces. The Bill allows an employer to specify situations when an unsafe condition is inherent to the job or is a normal condition of employment.

Bill 168 obligates employers to post written policies that must contain how the employer will address or resolve violence and harassment incidents and the employer is then required to train all of its employees on the written policy.

Under Bill 168, requirements for employers include: risk assessment of workplace violence arising from the nature or conditions of the workplace; written policies and implementation programs; extension of existing health and safety obligations; reasonable precautions regarding domestic violence and the workplace; disclosure procedures to protect employees from risks of workplace violence; and frequent reassessment of risks to protected workers.

Bill 168 aims at empowering employees with steps to report violence and harassment incidents and acts as a deterrent for perpetrators.

Under Bill 168, a threat of workplace violence could be either a statement or a behaviour that is interpreted as a threat to exercise physical force against the worker in the workplace. Bill 168 permits an employee to refuse to work or do a particular job where she or he has reason to believe that workplace violence is likely to endanger her or him.

Employees must report incidents or threats of workplace violence to the employer. Employers are then required to report incidents to their safety committees within four days of the occurrence.

Bill 168 requires employers to treat harassment based on non-protected grounds in the same manner as harassment based on the Human Rights Code protected grounds.

The Ministry of Labour Inspectors have the power under Bill 168 to visit workplaces to ensure compliance and satisfy that employees understand the company’s position.

Employers must ensure that their written policy fulfills all the requirements of Bill 168, the Occupational Health and Safety Amendment Act (Violence and Harassment in the Workplace) 2009, by June 15, 2010.

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Cecil Norman, B.Sc, MA, Director of Conflict Resolution with Human Rights Advisory Services, specializes in workplace human rights and conflict resolution policy development and training. Cecil’s column, Conflict Matters, appears regularly in the TorontoJobs.ca newspaper. You may reach him directly at 905-306-3464 or by E-mail at cnorman@hras.ca