When a workplace violence complaint is launched against an employer, what are the employer’s responsibilities regarding the investigation of such a complaint? This issue was addressed recently in the decision of Canada (Attorney General) v Public Service Alliance of Canada.
Violence In The Workplace – Employer Responsibilities
In that case, a poultry inspector launched a complaint regarding unfair and disrespectful treatment and humiliation in the workplace. The employer investigated the matter but chose not to choose a neutral, competent individual to conduct the investigation, as required by Part XX of the Canada Occupational Health and Safety Regulations. In explaining the basis for why such an individual was not chosen, the employer stated that because its investigation did not reveal that any workplace violence had occurred, it did not believe a competent and impartial person needed to be involved for investigative purposes.
Canada (Attorney General) v Public Service Alliance of Canada – Court Ruling
The Federal Court of Appeal agreed with the lower court that it was wrong for the employer to assess this complaint before appointing a competent person to investigate from a neutral perspective. While the employer may be able to screen clearly vexatious or frivolous complaints, this complaint was not vexatious or frivolous. As such, a competent person should have been appointed to investigate in accordance with the Regulations. Ultimately, the Federal Court of Appeal held that unless it is “plain and obvious” that the allegations do not relate to work place violence, a competent person must be appointed to investigate.
This case highlights the importance of the steps taken by the employer before deciding whether to bring in a neutral, competent investigator or conduct an investigation in the first instance itself. Regardless if whether you are an employer looking to determine what course of action to take in a situation like this, or you are an employee or other individual who believes you have grounds to make a workplace-related complaint, it is recommended the independent legal advice from a competent employment lawyer is sought.
Workplace Violence Experts
We at KCY at LAW have the expertise and experience necessary to provide effective advice in order to ensure your rights are being looked after for any workplace violence related cases. Call us now at (905) 639-0999 or contact us online to schedule a consultation right away!