Workers Health & Safety Centre

Conference to explore new workplace sexual violence and harassment laws

Conference to explore new workplace sexual violence and harassment laws
The Ontario Federation of Labour will host a one-day conference this fall to address legislative changes and other issues related to workplace sexual violence and harassment.
Conference organizers say participants will review the legislative changes and discuss activities for action, best practices, and reform. They are encouraging local union leaders, health and safety activists, plus women and equity activists to attend.
What:    OFL Violence & Harassment in the Workplace Conference
When:   Thursday, October 6, 2016, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Where:  Toronto—OFL Building
According to an Angus Reid poll first reported on in December, 2014, 28 per cent of Canadians say they have been sexually harassed at work. This represents 43 per cent of all women surveyed and 12 per cent of men. Most never report the incident(s) to their employer.
In March, 2015 the Ontario government unveiled an action plan aimed at helping to stop sexual violence and harassment. According to the government, the plan “focuses on changing attitudes, providing more supports for survivors and making workplaces and campuses safer from, and more responsive to, sexual violence and harassment.”
In March, 2016, Ontario enacted Bill 132—Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act which amended six existing laws, including the Occupational Health and Safety Act (the Act). As such the Act now requires specific employer duties with regard to workplace sexual harassment. The following are a few examples: 
  • developing and maintaining a written program to implement the sexual harassment policy in consultation with the joint health and safety committee or representative,
  • investigating and dealing with incidents or complaints of workplace harassment, and
  • setting up procedures and measures for workers to report incidents to someone other than their supervisor or employer, if those persons are the alleged harasser.
The amendments to the Act will also give a Ministry of Labour health and safety inspector new powers to order sexual harassment investigations, at the expense of the employer, by an impartial, qualified person.
Bill 132 comes into force on September 8, 2016.
Other matters to be explored at the conference include domestic violence as it pertains to the workplace. Employers have existing legal duties related to this issue. The Act states, “If an employer becomes aware, or ought reasonably to be aware, that domestic violence that would likely expose a worker to physical injury may occur in the workplace, the employer shall take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of the worker.”
For our part, the Workers Health & Safety Centre (WHSC) offers a three-hour Workplace Violence and Harassment Prevention training program designed to help workplace parties better understand workplace violence, harassment and bullying and to fully comply with the legal obligations. Be sure to check out WHSC’s compliance checklists for employers and workers and fact sheets on workplace violence, harassment and bullying. 
Want to know more about the OFL’s Violence & Harassment in the Workplace conference?
Want to know more about the Ontario government’s action plan to stop sexual violence and harassment?
Want to know more about Angus Reid sexual harassment survey?

Want to know more about WHSC training/resources or Bill 132?
WHSC Workplace Violence Resources
WHSC article about Bill 132
To learn more about WHSC workplace violence and harassment prevention training or other resources:

Call: 1-888-869-7950 and ask to speak to a WHSC training services representative.