Ontario Amends the Occupational Health and Safety Act

On October 27, 2015, an Act to amend various statutes with respect to sexual violence, sexual harassment, domestic  violence and related matters passed the first reading. The Act, also known as Bill 132, has amended provisions that specify employers’ obligations to have a program and a policy to protect employees from workplace harassment. The new law became effective September 8, 2016.

Under the amended law, the definition of “workplace harassment” has been expanded to include workplace sexual harassment. “Workplace sexual harassment” is defined as:

  • Engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct against a worker in a workplace because of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, where the course of comment or conduct is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome, or
  • Making a sexual solicitation or advance where the person making the solicitation or advance is in a position to confer, grant or deny a benefit or advancement to the worker and the person knows or ought reasonably to know that the solicitation or advance is unwelcome;

Furthermore, Section 32.0.6 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act has been revised to add additional requirements for programs that implement a workplace harassment policy. The programs must now include:

  • how information obtained about an incident or complaint of workplace harassment will not be disclosed unless the disclosure is necessary
  • how the worker who has allegedly experienced workplace harassment and the alleged harasser will be informed of the results of the investigation and of any corrective action that has been taken or that will be taken as a result of the investigation, and
  • any prescribed elements.

The amended Act also includes two new sections. Section 32.0.7 imposes certain duties on employers to protect workers from workplace harassment. Section 55.3 allows an inspector to order an employer to cause an investigation of workplace harassment to be conducted by a third-party person. Employers should ensure that requirements for programs that implement workplace harassment policy are met. To order the updated Ontario All-On-OneTM Labour Law Poster, click here.

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