Monthly Archives: December, 2018

Are you being bullied, humiliated or abused at work? Many Canadians are, study finds

December 24th, 2018 Respect in the Workplace


The Globe and Mail


Harassment’s toll

Workplace harassment in all its ugly forms is taking a heavy and crushing toll in Canada.

And women are suffering abuse more than men across all categories, a new study by Statistics Canada researchers warns.

Verbal abuse is the most prevalent, senior research analyst Darcy Hango and senior researcher Melissa Moyser said in their report.

Mr. Hango and Ms. Moyser based their study on the results of a 2016 General Social Survey on Canadians at Work and Home, when people were polled on five categories, including verbal abuse, humiliation, threats, physical violence and sexual attention or harassment.

Proportion of men and women who reported workplace harassment in the past 12 months, by type, 2016

workplace harassment statistics, statscan, abuse, work abuseAmong their findings:

One: Nineteen per cent of women and 13 per cent of men said they had suffered workplace harassment over the last year.

Two: Verbal abuse was most common, reported by 13 per cent of women and 10 per cent of men.

Three: Verbal abuse was followed by “humiliating behaviour,” suffered by 6 per cent of women and 5 per cent of men.

Four: About 3 per cent of women and men said they were subject to threats.

Five: Sexual harassment affected 4 per cent of women, and less than 1 per cent of men. And among the women, the researchers said, “more than half were targeted by clients or customers.”

Six: Health care workers were “most likely” to have been harassed, and “the differences between those in health and other occupations are more pronounced for women than men.”

Seven: Almost half of the men and 34 per cent of the women harassed by a manager “had a weak sense of belonging” to their employer. That compared to 16 per cent among both women and men who had not been harassed.

Obviously, this takes a heavy toll.

“Workers who reported workplace harassment were more likely to be dissatisfied with their current job, have low motivation to do their best work, be more likely to say they are planning to leave their current work, and have a weak sense of belonging to their workplace,” Mr. Hango and Ms. Moyser said.

“These workers also had worse health – general and mental – as well as higher levels of reported stress, and a less hopeful view of the future,” they added.

“Harassment in the workplace therefore has a considerable impact not only on people’s lives, but also on employers.”

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What we can learn from St. Mike’s to keep our kids safe

December 21st, 2018 General News, Respect in School

Peter MacKay, former federal justice minister and attorney general, is the board chair of the Boost Child & Youth Advocacy Center. Karyn Kennedy is the organization’s CEO.

Many Canadians have paid close attention to the criminal proceedings involving students at St. Michael’s College School in Toronto, which have included assault and gang sexual assault. At Boost Child & Youth Advocacy Centre, we have been supporting victims and families involved in this case, as we have been doing for thousands of victims and their families in Toronto for more than 30 years. The storied history of the school has made the St. Michael’s case seem exceptional; but sadly, it is not. Even in the weeks after the St. Michael’s story emerged, we’ve had calls from parents across the city seeking help because their child was abused at other schools.

This is a problem that exists in every part of the country: Each year, there are more than 200,000 cases of reported child abuse and neglect in Canada. This number alone is shocking enough. Consider also that the impact of unresolved childhood abuse can be lifelong and cut across generations. This present reality makes us angry. It makes us sad. It must also drive action on improvement, because improved prevention is possible. That number can go down.

We must appreciate that this isn’t just about one school with a problem. In fact, this isn’t just a school problem. The St. Michael’s case has opened a window into the dangers of abuse that face children and youth across Canada in a variety of settings.

With younger children, the safety imperatives can seem more obvious. We regulate things such as car seats and playground equipment. We teach children in our lives to look both ways when crossing the street. We child-proof our homes.

When children become adolescents, they have new experiences that can sometimes present new risks. They spend more unsupervised time with other young people. Various adults can play significant roles in their lives and in reaching goals related to sports or other activities. Adolescents are not always as well prepared for the risks in these new environments because awareness and prevention aren’t discussed as openly as those childhood risks. This must change. Protection of adolescent children is also on our watch – the responsibility belongs to all of us.

Let’s start by losing our complacency and pledging to never permit, mask or make excuses for any type of abuse. Let’s call hazing and initiation what it truly is: a deliberate, often illegal use of power to abuse and degrade another human being. We also need to consider whether the term bullying really captures what is happening when boys and girls are physically or sexually assaulted by older children or youth. When such acts are committed against an adult, we call it sexual assault and call the police. Young people should be made more aware that committing such acts can lead to criminal charges and are, in fact, very damaging to those victimized.

Active, honest communication is vital. Children and youth must know that they will be heard if they tell an adult that they have experienced or seen abuse. There are children who have told our staff about wanting to tell an adult in their life about abuse but feeling there was never the right moment when they would have their full attention and understanding. Everybody has a responsibility to create those moments. Young people must know there is no higher priority than their safety. No other goal – not championships or scholarships – is more important than their well-being.

We need to build a stronger culture of prevention in places where youth spend their time. There should be active and transparent plans, understood by all – school administrators, principals, teachers, coaches, youth and parents – for mitigating the risk of assault and sexual assault.

Children who come forward to report abuse are heroes who open our eyes. We can’t look away. We owe it to them to protect them and other children from harm. All Canadians must join us in taking action, right now, to prevent abuse and build a future in which children and youth grow up in a safe, healthy and nurturing environment.

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19% of women, 13% of men report workplace harassment in StatsCan survey

December 20th, 2018 Respect in the Workplace

Health-care workers, who interact with public frequently, report highest level of abuse

Workers in health occupations reported the highest levels of harassment, with 27 per cent of women and 21 per cent of men saying they’d been abused in the past year. (Shutterstock / Syda Productions)

About 19 per cent of Canadian women and 13 per cent of men reported being harassed in the workplace, with the highest level of harassment in health-care jobs, according to Statistics Canada.

Verbal abuse was the most common form of harassment for both men and women with 13 per cent of women and 10 per cent of men reporting they’d experienced abuse in the preceding year.

Sexual harassment was most likely to affect women, with four per cent saying they had experienced unwanted sexual attention in the workplace, compared to fewer than one per cent of men.

Young, unmarried women were most likely to report some form of sexual harassment.

The results, based on Statistics Canada’s General Social Survey, gathered data in 2016, the year before the #MeToo movement focused attention on sexual harassment. The report was released Monday.

“That’s why we have to follow up,” said Sébastien LaRochelle-Côté, a managing editor for Statistics Canada, who says researchers have suggested repeating the survey amid the more heightened awareness of harassment that followed #MeToo.

The survey conducted from August to December 2016 questioned 19,609 men and women aged 15 to 64, who had worked for pay in the preceding year.

Harassment from clients, customers

LaRochelle-Côté said survey questions asked people whether they had experienced verbal abuse, humiliating behaviour, threats, physical violence, and unwanted sexual attention or sexual harassment in the workplace in the past year.

“It doesn’t mean they reported the situation to their employer,” he said.

About 53 per cent of women said the harassment came from a client or a customer at work.  compared with 42 per cent of men.

Women were most likely to report sexual harassment in the workplace, with young, unmarried women most affected. (Dmytro Zinkevych/Shutterstock)

“A lot of people who work with the public — and that includes, for example, people who work in health-care occupations — have higher levels of harassment because they have higher levels of interaction with the public,” LaRochelle-Côté said.

People working in the health-care related jobs experienced the highest levels of harassment, with about 23 per cent reporting they had been harassed in the past year.

In health occupations, including doctors and nurses, 27 per cent of women and 21 per cent of men reported harassment in the past year.

Part of the reason for higher levels of harassment of women is that more of them work in health-related jobs, he said.

Michael Hurley, president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions, says he thinks Statistics Canada’s numbers are low. A survey the council did earlier this year found 68 per cent of hospital staff in Ontario said they have been victims of physical violence at work in the past year.

“Negative attitudes toward women are imported by family members,” he told CBC News. “Low levels of staffing and quality-of-care issues combine together to create a situation where people feel free to express the anger they have.”

He recommends an increase in staffing because too many health-care workers are on their own in both nursing homes and hospitals.

Hurley said his union is pressing for a change in the criminal code to increase sentences for people who assault health-care workers.

It’s also urging some means of flagging troublesome patients and warning nurses and doctors about patients involved with law enforcement, to help them know they must be extra cautious. Earlier this year in Kingston, Ont., a prison inmate disarmed an officer and fired two shots in the hospital.

Among men, 39 per cent of those reporting harassment in the Statistics Canada survey said they’d been harassed by a supervisor or manager, while among women, more — 34 per cent — said they’d been harassed by peers or colleagues.

The survey found that being harassed at work was associated with stress, poor mental health and lack of motivation.

“It does have implications for employers if you look at the higher proportion of workers who’ve been harassed who want to leave their jobs and even more so if they’ve been harassed by a person in a position of power,” LaRochelle-Côté said.

About 47 per cent of men and 34 per cent of women who had been harassed by a supervisor or manager reported a weak sense of belonging to their current organization, compared with 16 per cent of both women and men who said they had not been harassed at work in the past year.

workplace harassment, work, abuse, harassment, bullying, suicide, military, canada, training, suicide prevention

Armed Forces confirms Shilo reservist who died by suicide was bullied

December 19th, 2018 Respect in the Workplace



The Canadian Armed Forces is accepting responsibility for its role in the death of a Manitoba-based soldier, who took his own life on Nov. 18, 2017.

Cpl. Nolan Caribou, who was originally from Pukatawagon, had been with the Royal Winnipeg Rifles for five years when he died in Shilo. At the time of Caribou’s death, the military would only say the reservist died during a training exercise.


The military released a statement Monday confirming Caribou took his own life and pointing to “deep administrative deficiencies and troubling recurring activities in the Minto Armoury to include bullying, unsanctioned fighting, inappropriate use of alcohol resulting in violence and initiation activities.”

“Although we do not know everything going on in Cpl. Caribou’s life, I believe that the harassment he faced and the failure of unit leaders to intervene contributed to his death,” said Brigadier-General Trevor Cadieu, Commander 3rd Canadian Division.


“I have met with and personally committed to Corporal Caribou’s family that his death will not be in vain, and that we must work to be better for this painful experience. In order to unlock these opportunities for the family and affected soldiers to heal and grow, it is essential that we first accept responsibility for our role in the death of this soldier,” Cadieu said.

He adds that remedial action against five members has been taken, including the removal of one individual from a senior command position he was previously selected for.

The Canadian Armed Forces continues to investigate.

coach, abuse, coach abuse, sport, coaching, sports, parenting

French roller-skating coach given 13 years in jail for sexual abuse

December 19th, 2018 Respect in Sport

PONTOISE: France’s former national artistic roller-skating coach has been sentenced to 13 years in prison after being found guilty of sexual assault and rape of a minor, the prosecutor’s office in Pontoise outside Paris said Monday.

After having denied everything since 2011, Arnaud Mercier, 42, admitted to the court that he had sexually assaulted teenage girls but denied rape.

The prosecution called last week for a 20-year jail term.

The case centred around his actions towards two young skaters dating back to 2011 when one of the skaters first reported that she had been abused by her trainer since the age of eight.

He was suspended from his duties first for six months and then definitively.

In 2015, a second skater who had initially defended Mercier, made a complaint detailing daily rapes from the age of 13, punishments for not complying with certain sexual acts, and meetings with other men arranged by the trainer.

Two other athletes came forward to testify, one of them alleging he had raped her for two years when she was between the ages of 16 and 18.–AFP

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Tearful South Korean Olympic champion tells court of coach abuse

December 19th, 2018 Respect in Sport

Source: ChannelNews Asia, December 18, 2018


EOUL: Double Olympic gold medallist Shim Suk-hee broke down in tears as she told a South Korean court of the years of abuse she suffered at the hands of her coach.

Aged 21, the short-track skater has four Olympic medals to her name, including relay golds at both Sochi 2014 and on home ice at this year’s Pyeongchang Games.

But she told a court that her coach Cho Jae-beom had been beating her since she was seven – on one occasion breaking her fingers – leaving her “deeply traumatised”.

His violence “kept escalating” as she grew older, she said at the hearing in Suwon, south of Seoul.

“He frequently beat me and verbally abused me since I was seven … at one point beating me with an ice hockey stick and breaking my fingers,” she said.

Another time he hurled metal nuts at her, ripping open her forehead.

Just weeks ahead of the Pyeongchang Olympics, “he kicked and punched me so hard, especially on my head, that I even thought ‘I could die here’,” she said, breaking down.

South Korea is a regional sporting power and is regularly in the top 10 medal table places at the summer and winter Olympics. It is the only Asian country other than Japan to have hosted both Games.

But in an already intensely competitive society, winning is everything in its sports community – where coaches hold immense sway over athletes’ careers, and physical and verbal abuse are known to be rife. Those who speak out are liable to be sidelined and castigated as “traitors”.

Cho admitted to police that he beat Shim and three other athletes at their training camp to “improve their performance” and was given 10 months in prison for assault at his trial in October.

But he appealed against the sentence.

Shim said she had been “brainwashed” by Cho who threatened to end her sporting career if she spoke out, saying she had been “gripped by extreme fear and anxiety” about Cho all her life.

“I’m getting psychological treatment for depression, anxiety, sleep disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder,” she said.

The pre-Pyeongchang beating left her concussed and she blamed it for affecting her performance at the Games, where she failed to match her medal haul from Sochi, which included silver in the 1500m and bronze in the 1000m.

She did not testify at Cho’s original trial for fear of “having to confront him”, she told the hearing on Monday (Dec 17), “but I mustered up courage because I thought I needed to speak the truth”.

The South Korean women’s curling team – another star of this year’s Winter Games, whose unexpected run to the final and a silver medal earned them global headlines – have accused their coaches of verbal abuse and exploitation.

The team – nicknamed “Garlic Girls” after the local specialty of their rural hometown – said the managers had banned them from talking to other athletes, did not share how donations and prize money were being spent and censored all gifts and letters from fans.

Source: AFP/ga

women harassment, women workplace, workplace harassment, canada, harassment, sexual harassment, sexual harassment in the workplace, training, harassment training

Women are more likely to experience workplace harassment than men: StatCan

December 18th, 2018 Respect in the Workplace

The Canadian Press

Global News, December 17, 2018

A new study suggests women are more likely than men to experience workplace harassment and that it’s more common in health-related fields.

The Statistics Canada report, “Harassment in Canadian workplaces,” suggests most people don’t experience abuse on the job but that a significant number do — including verbal abuse, humiliating behaviour, threats, physical violence and unwanted sexual attention or sexual harassment.

Among roughly 9,000 respondents, 19 per cent of women and 13 per cent of men said they had been harassed at work.

The findings come from 2016 data from the General Social Survey on Canadians at Work and Home, which asked Canadians between the ages of 15 and 64 about incidents of harassment during the previous 12 months.

Senior researcher Melissa Moyser notes much has changed in society since the poll was conducted, pointing to increased general awareness of sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour.


“This is definitely pre-MeToo,” said Moyser, based in Ottawa but reached in Gatineau, Que., on Monday.

“We would expect that with the sort of growing awareness of sexual harassment, unwanted sexual attention, etc., the results could look different when we do the next version of this.”

Both men and women said clients or customers were the most common source of harassment, including 53 per cent of women and 42 per cent of men.

But Moyser said women appear especially vulnerable to this type of abuse because they work in jobs that tend to have a high degree of public interaction such as health care, social services and the education sector.


Overall, those in the health field — including nurses and doctors — had a 23-per-cent probability of reporting harassment, including 27 per cent of women and 21 per cent of men.

In contrast, those in natural and applied sciences — such as engineers and computer and information system professionals — had a nine-per-cent probability of reporting harassment.

“A lot of that is exposure because women are interacting with these customers and clients more frequently,” said Moyser. “That is who they are being harassed by and that’s also why we see that women are more likely to be harassed than men.”


Researchers also linked workplace harassment to workplace well-being, such as job dissatisfaction and level of motivation. Women who reported harassment were three times more likely to say they were unhappy with their job, at 14 per cent, than those who did not. Similar results were found for men.

But Moyser said not enough is known to determine if harassment was a causal factor in less job satisfaction.

“It could be that workplace harassment occurs in the context of workplaces where there are other sorts of toxic elements. It’s just generally a negative situation at work,” Moyser said.

Harassment by a supervisor or manager was also associated with more negative effects on workplace well-being than harassment by someone else.


The study also linked workplace harassment to personal well-being, with 18 per cent of men and 16 per cent of women who reported incidents saying they had poor mental health, compared to six per cent of men and eight per cent of women who had not been harassed.

Moyser says the general social survey is being “modernized” with possible future questions including more detail on the race of the worker and the sex of the perpetrator. The survey is usually done on a cycle of five to seven years, but future work-related questions could be integrated into another general social survey before that.

Other findings include the fact that after clients or customers, the next most common source of harassment for men was their supervisor or manager at 39 per cent. Among women, it was colleagues and peers at 34 per cent.

Thirteen per cent of women and 10 per cent of men reported having experienced verbal abuse, while six per cent of women and five per cent of men reported experiencing humiliating behaviour.

Men and women were equally likely to report having experienced threats in the workplace at three per cent each, and about four per cent of women and less than one per cent of men reported having experienced sexual harassment or unwanted sexual attention in the workplace.

Finally, about three per cent of women reported having experienced physical violence, versus about one per cent of men.


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The Most Important Workplace Conversation: Our Mental Health

December 17th, 2018 Respect in the Workplace


Drew Aversa, MBA & RYT

Featured on FORBES

Have you wondered why your workplace isn’t much better than your friend’s, yet the grass always seems to look greener? Or why the majority of employees are checked out at work today? It’s because we aren’t talking about the most important thing at work: everyone’s mental health.

If mindset is the most important thing to creating winning cultures, then why aren’t we talking about mental health as a key performance indicator of organizational success?

What do you think of when you hear the words “mental health?” To many people, mental health screams stigma and craziness because of the way it has been portrayed in movies for years. Americans also tend to have it worse because duty was and is a staple of our ethnocentric view of success, impeding the ability to express vulnerability and inclusive views that make every human — no matter how rich or poor — feel safe and heard.

As we ignore the importance of mental health in the workplace, we continue to see depression rise and stress being recognized as a top health epidemic of our time. According to Jeffrey Pfeffer, Ph.D. of Stanford, some workplace conditions may even result in premature death. Isn’t it interesting how we can talk about cancer all day, yet we can’t talk about what might be spreading cancer in the first place (i.e., stress)?

It’s easy to talk root cause analysis in business, yet the western view thinks it can separate mind-body-spirit as if they were made in different assembly plants. It’s for this reason that I speak nationally on the importance of brain health for business leaders — because it is the most important thing that makes or breaks companies today.

Before my business life, I was critically injured as a firefighter. I never received counseling, and I had no idea the trauma my body endured and the trauma I saw would catch up with me because, in health care, the mind and body are taught to be separate. Healing naturally, seeking out top experts and truth, I transformed my life from firefighter to Fortune 150. Today, I coach business leaders on how to break through trauma so it does not creep into the workplace as negative projection — something that’s seen all too often in toxic workplaces.

But it isn’t the toxic workplace that’s killing us; it’s the aggregate sum of people who haven’t resolved their own trauma who are killing themselves slowly and the people under their power.

As stress rises and begins to impact even the most resilient of leaders, it is critical that everyone understand how the brain impacts total and organizational health. Say it with me now: My brain is the hormone control center. My brain is the thought center. My brain holds my breathing center. My brain is the reaction center. My brain can get me into Harvard. Lastly, my brain is more important than I ever realized.

When we start to look at brain health, we begin to ask questions that every worker can get behind because they don’t have the stigma attached to them. If we choose to avoid prioritizing mental health at work, we will continue to perpetuate every issue we’ve seen, from #MeToo scandals to exploiting workers. A leader doesn’t need to be diagnosed with a mental disorder to have cloudy judgment and a deep-rooted bias.

What’s crazier than the stigma of mental health today is not talking about ways people can evolve to a higher consciousness to truly lead others during one of the most uncertain and dynamic times in world history, as innovation causes massive disruptions across numerous industries. Focusing on healthy minds can allow us to have healthy business conversations on topics like:

• Gender equity

• A declining middle class

• Politics prohibiting progress

• Inclusive business practices

• Transformational corporate social responsibility

As a leader who broke through life-changing challenges, my trauma-informed view sheds a unique perspective on the topic of mental health and stress in the workplace. It also lends a view of truth and inspiration, so we can begin treating mental health as a key pillar of business success.

If you’re ready to change your workplace culture so everyone can thrive, here are some action items I recommend:

1. Form a peer support team. Mental health issues take a 360-degree approach. Not only do people have immediate health issues to take care of, but also they are not thinking clearly (finances run amiss, diet goes out the window, depression keeps them in bed for weeks, etc.). A peer support or care team needs to break down the walls of the current HR compliance mindset — the hands-off approach that lets top talent slip into the void on stress leave — that is rooted in fear. Caring is common sense.

2. Care about your co-worker. A lot of adults are solo as they leave their families to find lonely success in big cities. You don’t have to love everything about your co-worker, but you do have to care.

3. Set a reminder. It’s human nature to forget. Set a reminder on your calendar to check in with your teammate who is out. Never forget about people, or they may one day forget about you.

4. Meditate before team meetings. For every veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), there are 30 civilians with it. Car accidents, health issues, abuse, etc. add up. When trauma runs the mind, people are reactive and not focused. Encourage everyone on your team to begin focusing on their breath to unwind. Do this for two minutes.

Note that these action items don’t require a full legal review; they require just that: action.

As I coach clients through fear, I get them talking about mental health in the workplace to change an outdated stigma that prohibits an inclusive work environment. If you’re not talking about mental health today in your leadership meetings, why not? And for how much longer do you plan to avoid your most important metric of success?

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Workplace harassment liability may extend to companies other than victim’s employer: Howard Levitt

December 17th, 2018 Respect in the Workplace

Supervisor wins discrimination case against employee of co-contracted firm

All responsible employers know that they have increasing obligations to their employees. Chief among these — poignantly publicized by the #MeToo movement’s roiling of Canadian workplaces — is the obligation to maintain a working environment free from violence, harassment and discrimination.

Human rights tribunals have come to loom large in employment, where discrimination claims are endemic. But it may come as a surprise to employers and employees alike to learn that, in some cases, liability for workplace discrimination extends beyond employers and employees and to potentially almost everyone employees must deal with.

Employees themselves may be liable for their own discriminatory conduct. In British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal v. Schrenk, the Supreme Court of Canada recently held that this may be so even where the victim works for a different employer and is in a senior position to the perpetrator.

Mohammadrez Sheikhzadeh-Mashgoul, a Muslim Iranian immigrant, worked as a supervising engineer for a firm hired by the B.C. municipality of Delta. Edward Schrenk worked for Clemas, a construction company, also hired by Delta for the same project. Due to the structure of this project, Sheikhzadeh-Mashgoul had “significant influence over how Clemas and Schrenk performed their work.”

Despite his junior role, Schrenk targeted Sheikhzadeh-Mashgoul with a sustained barrage of homophobic and anti-Muslim comments and conduct. Sheikhzadeh-Mashgoul raised this with both his employer and Clemas, which eventually dismissed Schrenk.

Sheikhzadeh-Mashgoul still filed a complaint with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal against Schrenk and Clemas, who both argued that the tribunal could not hear the claim because they were not in any employment relationship with the complainant, who worked for an unrelated engineering firm.

The tribunal decided that it could hear the claim and, although the B.C. Court of Appeal disagreed, a majority of the Supreme Court agreed with the tribunal. The court found that the relevant section of the code — “A person must not … discriminate against a person regarding employment” — was broad enough to catch any discrimination, more widely defined.

The court ruled that it would be “superficial” to say that only an employer and/or superior could perpetrate workplace discrimination. Colleagues could also be a source of discrimination, and a broad view of human rights legislation demanded that victims be able to bring a claim against a discriminatory co-worker. This is especially so because employees are in a vulnerable position when it comes to discrimination, unable to simply walk away from an abusive colleague. Sheikhzadeh-Mashgoul’s complaint against Schrenk and Clemas was therefore allowed to proceed before the tribunal.

What does this mean for Canadian employees and employers? It depends on which province you work in.

Some provinces, such as Alberta, use explicit language in their human rights law to limit employment-based discrimination to acts committed by employers or those in a similar position of power over the employee-victim.

But these provinces are in the minority.

As this Supreme Court case arose in B.C., it obviously reflects the law in that province. Human rights law in Manitoba, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia all use broad language similar to that found in B.C., so this is certainly good law in those provinces as well.

In both Ontario and Saskatchewan, human rights law explicitly prohibits discrimination in employment by “another employee.” But it is not yet clear whether this extends to another employee with a different employer, as was the case in Sheikhzadeh-Mashgoul’s situation.

Courts have long given human rights legislation a broad and generous reading so that it accomplishes its lofty purposes of identifying and eliminating discrimination

However, the courts have long given human rights legislation a broad and generous reading so that it accomplishes its lofty purposes of identifying and eliminating discrimination. Accordingly, the scope of the law in these two provinces may be expanded by the Supreme Court’s ruling, though that will not be certain until cases on the point are decided.

What is clear is that, in these provinces, employers and employees must be especially vigilant towards workplace misconduct. Employees and employers should act proactively when they become aware of discrimination in the workplace, as failure to do so will have far-reaching consequences, financially and reputationally. Employees will not be insulated from the consequences of their discriminatory conduct, nor will they be able to simply pass liability onto an employer that has stood idly by while discrimination occurred.

And employers may not be able to escape liability because their employee targeted somebody with a different employer. The Supreme Court has made clear that, depending on the arrangement of the work, the lack of a formal employment relationship will be no defence to a claim of discrimination in employment.

• Howard Levitt is senior partner of Levitt LLP, employment and labour lawyers. He practises employment law in eight provinces. The most recent of his six books is War Stories from the Workplace: Columns by Howard Levitt.

workplace harassment, harassment, bill c-65, training, workplace training

Feds focus on harassment, violence with passage of Bill C-65

December 17th, 2018 Respect in the Workplace

Posted on: Occupational Safety – The Safety Standard




In developing a workplace strategy around harassment and violence, the federal government recently passed Bill C-65, an Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (harassment and violence), the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act and the Budget Implementation Act, 2017.

“It’s really just making sure that employees have this added protection,” said Carla Oliver, an occupational health and safety and HR consultant at Fasken in Toronto.

“They’re making it more clear for employers… they’re trying to streamline it, and make sure employers understand their duties.”

When it comes to prevention, the new law will require mandatory training of federally regulated employers and employees, according to Lori Sterling, senior counsel at Bennett Jones in Ottawa.

“The main way in which we would eradicate harassment in the workplace is through culture change, and one of the key tools for culture change, apart from leadership signalling zero tolerance, is to ensure that there is training done at all levels of the organization,” she said.

“It specifically says now that a person designated by the employer to receive complaints also has to have knowledge and training and experience.”

The training is meant to ensure employees understand there is a policy, there are requirements for reporting, and there are requirements for employers to do an investigation, said Oliver.

“It’s really (about) getting that communication to employees to understand ‘This is what our policy is and this is what we’re expecting you to do, and this is what the employer will be doing’ — so it sets it all out.”

The new law will not just apply to employees but interns and volunteers — and former employees, in some cases. That part is fairly novel, said Sterling.

“You can imagine a situation where there’s been such horrific conduct that an employee has left but, at the same time, you want whoever that engaged in the harassment to be dealt with. And under the old regime, the employee that left would have had no rights.”

Provincially, it’s usually about “in and out of the course of employment,” so this is a bit different, though it’s limited to three months after the employee leaves, said Oliver.

“You don’t want anybody leaving because they felt harassed or there was an act of violence, because that could occur to some other employee, so an employer should want to know so they can investigate and make sure there’s nothing going on.”

The new law, which has received royal assent but is not yet in force, will also require employers to respond even if there is no formal complaint of harassment or violence.

“The idea is that the employee would have a duty to report if they witness it or they experience it, and then they have a duty to tell the employer that then triggers the end duty to begin an investigation,” said Oliver.

“A lot of times, you might overhear or walk by a conversation and you catch snippets and maybe you guess somebody is being harassed, but that really doesn’t trigger that duty — it’s more specific.”

Employees who have reasonable grounds to believe there’s been a violation should speak to a supervisor or, if the supervisor’s not appropriate, a person designated by the employer, said Sterling.

“That’s largely to deal with a situation where either the supervisor is the alleged harasser, or it’s a small work environment and they want to get some distance between the supervisor; for example, a mom and pop shop.”

If the parties are unable to resolve matters informally, a complaint can be filed, which then entitles the complainant to an investigation by a “competent person,” who is jointly selected by the employer and employee, she said.

“Initially, people try to resolve this in an informal way, but if that is not successful, then there’s a right to a formal investigation and what’s novel in this legislation is that in that formal investigation, the investigator is a joint determination by the employer and the employee.”

A lot of times, there are policies and procedures in place, but employees aren’t sure who to talk to, especially if the harasser is a supervisor. That’s why a competent person makes sense, said Oliver, meaning someone “having the knowledge, understanding, skills to be able to handle these types of complaints… there has to be some level of competency.”

And while occupational health and safety committees review the policies, Bill C-65 says they are no longer directly involved in the investigation of a specific complaint unless the employee consents, said Sterling.

When the federal government did its consultation, it found many people who experienced harassment didn’t come forward because of concerns about privacy, or skepticism about whether things would really change, she said.

“To deal with the concerns around privacy, there is a role for the health and safety policy committee in setting the policy of the employer, but with respect to individual complaints, they’re no longer part of the complaint unless the complainant consents… some complainants may not want others to know.”

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