Everyone, as set out by the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and the Ontario Human Rights Code (Code), has a right to work in a safe and healthy workplace. An employer in Ontario has responsibilities as set out by the OHSA, including the development and implementation of policies and programs for Workplace Harassment Prevention.
Concerning sexual harassment, the Code also places the responsibility on the employer to maintain an environment free from sexual harassment. An effective sexual harassment policy will be able to limit harm and reduce liability. An employer violates the Code where the party directly, indirectly, intentionally or unintentionally infringes on the Human Rights Code, or by authorizing, condoning or adopting behaviour contrary to the Code.
What is Workplace Sexual Harassment?
Sexual harassment is defined as comments or conduct against an employee due to that employee’s sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and/or gender expression. In the case of sexual harassment, the comments or conduct is known or reasonably ought to be known as unwelcome.
Where a person makes a sexual solicitation or advance and that person is in a position to confer, grant or deny a benefit or advancement to the employee and ought to reasonably know or knows that the solicitation or advance is unwelcomed, it will also constitute sexual harassment in the workplace.
The Employer’s Responsibilities
Employers have a responsibility to ensure that the work environment is free from sexual harassment. This includes annually preparing and reviewing a clear, comprehensive policy on workplace harassment, as is minimally required by the provisions of the OHSA.
In a situation where there is alleged sexual harassment, having a policy in place informs the parties of their rights, roles, and responsibilities, in addition to stating how the sexual harassment will be dealt with promptly and efficiently. This policy is required to be implemented through a workplace harassment program. The program would include information such as the procedure to report incidents, procedures to report incidents where the employer or supervisor is the alleged harasser, and the investigation process, among other things.
How can Zeilikman Law help?
We are litigators and advocates at heart. Our mission statement is to assist our client through the difficult process of managing workplace disputes and with defending your company and company’s reputation in the course of a legal proceeding all the way to trial and appeal, if necessary.
We also understand the importance of implementing policies and programs for Workplace Harassment Prevention. Our lawyers can help draft policies and programs that comply with the various legal requirements expected of employers in Ontario.
Request a consultation today!