To prevent sexual violence and harassment in the workplace the government is proposing, among others things, a number of changes to the Occupational Health and Safety Act (the Act)
To accomplish this they formed Ontario’s Select Committee on Sexual Violence and Harassment
whose mandate is to consult with the public on issues related to violence and harassment and make recommendations to the legislature.
As per their mandate the Committee recently released an interim report
based on their observations and public consultations
which took place from March 4 to May 22, 2015. The Committee heard from individual survivors, family members, health care and social service professionals, and representatives of stakeholder organizations including:
Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO).
Labour OHCOW Academic Research Collaboration (LOARC).
Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL).
Ontario Nurses Association (ONA).
Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare Canada.
Toronto Workers’ Health and Safety Legal Clinic (TWHSLC), and
Sexual violence and harassment is an unacceptable
but common reality in many Ontario workplaces. In their interim report, the Committee states that “sexual harassment is more likely to occur where gender, racialized or other workplace power differences are present.”
Jobs that require late hours, working in isolation, and interaction with unstable or volatile persons, also place workers at greater risk.
The Committee heard from many labour representatives who stated that despite recent legislative changes regarding workplace violence and harassment most victims of sexual harassment still hesitate to come forward
and report the behaviour for fear of losing their jobs, retaliation, or a lack of support.
“We found there are shortfalls and perhaps failures in the present legislation that if addressed, could help prevent sexual and other types of workplace violence and harassment,” said Nancy Hutchison, OFL, secretary-treasurer.
“Sexual violence and workplace harassment are psychosocial hazards
that must be addressed because it impacts on the health and welfare of its victims. This impact can be felt not only in the workplace, but also in women’s shelters, sexual assault centres, health care facilities and university campuses. Left unchecked it can do irreparable harm physically as well as mentally,” adds Laura Lozanski, health and safety officer, Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) and member of LOARC.
In public hearings and in written submissions labour representatives made some of the following recommendations
Amend the Act so that employers have a legal obligation to protect workers from harassment, in addition to violence.
Develop a regulation on working alone or in isolation, a significant risk factor associated with sexual violence.
Make incidents of sexual abuse in the workplace part of the mandatory reporting requirements under Section 52 of the Act.
Give MOL inspectors the authority and the direction to inspect and enforce the law regarding violence and reprisals.
Hire more inspectors and train them to address psychosocial hazards such as harassment in Ontario workplaces.
Develop a Code of Practice to assist employers in creating stronger workplace violence and harassment policies.
Encourage adoption of the CSA standard Psychological health and safety in the workplace—Prevention, promotion, and guidance to staged implementation.
Require employers to consult with the joint health and safety committee and health and safety representative (if there is one) when developing policies and procedures to prevent harassment and violence.
Increase employer, supervisor and worker education on their rights and duties regarding workplace harassment.
The final report
on the Select Committee’s recommendations to the government is due on December 10, 2015
. They are accepting written submissions until early November.
Written submissions can be sent to:
Daiene Vernile MPP (Chair)
Katch Koch (Clerk)
Room 1405, Whitney Block
Queen’s Park, Toronto ON M7A 1A2
Want to read the Select Committee for Sexual Harassment and Violence Interim Report?
Want to read some of the presentations made to the Select Committee on Sexual Harassment and Violence?
WHSC offers a wide range of training programs
to help workplace parties understand their legal duties and responsibilities related to workplace violence and harassment and other workplace hazards.
To learn more: