On October 27, 2015, Ontario’s Liberal government, as part of its “It’s Never Okay” plan, proposed a means to further prevent sexual harassment and violence. Among the changes proposed by the plan are that to the area of employment law. While the proposed plan would not significantly change the duties and responsibilities of employers in relation to sexual violence and harassment, it would further cement what is already expected of employers in this regard. Generic anti-harassment policies would no longer be enough, rather employers would be required to spend the time and money to create appropriate measures specifically targeting these issues in the workplace.
Proposed Ontario Legislation Expanding Employer Duty to Prevent Sexual Harassment
Should this plan become legislation, the definition of workplace harassment will be broadened to include workplace sexual harassment which includes characteristics of sex, sexual orientation, and other grounds protected under human rights legislation, which the current definition of workplace harassment does not include. This inclusion will clearly distinguish sexual harassment from other forms of harassment that occur in the workplace and require that specific policies be put in place to specifically address these concerns.
The plan would also enhance the duties and responsibilities of employers to prevent and investigate claims of workplace harassment. In addition to requiring employers to develop written policies with an annual review, including a procedure for employees to report incidents and providing training to employees, the plan would require employers to detail the process for an employee to undergo when the harasser is a supervisor, give explicit assurance that the complaint will be confidential unless disclosure is absolutely necessary, and provide details of how the complainant will be informed of the results of the investigation.
Workplace Harassment & Employment Law Lawyers
Whether this plan actually makes its way into legislation remains to be seen. Regardless, now is a good time for employers to become more proactive as it relates to their workplace harassment and violence programs. Contact KCY at LAW today on (905) 639-0999 or online so that we can provide you with the advice and expertise necessary to ensure you are ahead of the curve!