A policy addressing workplace harassment promotes a working environment of dignity and respect and helps keep Ontario’s workplaces healthy and safe.
All workers should know what workplace harassment is and how to report it. Employers should encourage workers to report workplace harassment so that appropriate action can be taken to stop unwelcome conduct.
An employer is required to prepare a workplace harassment policy under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA). In addition to including the definition of workplace harassment as defined by the OHSA in its policy, an employer may include the following behaviours as examples of workplace harassment:
- offensive or intimidating comments or jokes;
- bullying or aggressive behaviour;
- displaying or circulating offensive pictures or materials;
- inappropriate staring;
- workplace sexual harassment;
- isolating or making fun of a worker because of gender identity.
Workplace sexual harassment includes unwelcome solicitation or advances from a manager, supervisor or another person who has the power to reward or punish the worker.
Employers may choose to prepare a separate policy regarding workplace harassment or they may combine it with a workplace violence policy [section 32.0.1(1)(a) of OHSA] or the occupational health and safety policy [section 25(2)(j) of OHSA]. An employer may also choose to combine its workplace harassment policy with an anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policy that addresses the protected grounds under Ontario’s Human Rights Code.
A template Workplace Harassment Policy is attached to this Code of Practice as Schedule C.
Occupational Health and Safety Act, s. 32.0.1(1) and (2)
- (1)(b) An employer shall prepare a policy with respect to workplace harassment; and
- (c) review the policies as often as is necessary, but at least annually.
- (2) The policies shall be in written form and shall be posted at a conspicuous place in the workplace.
To comply with this Part of the Code of Practice, all components contained in the Practice below must be met regardless of whether the employer combines policies or not.
An employer is required to prepare a policy with respect to workplace harassment.
The workplace harassment policy must be:
- Prepared in writing by the employer.
- Posted in a conspicuous place in the workplace where it would be likely to come to workers’ attention.
- Reviewed by the employer as often as necessary, but at least annually.
- Dated and signed by the highest level of management of the employer or at the workplace (e.g. President, CEO, Senior Human Resources Professional or uppermost member of management at the workplace).
The workplace harassment policy, at a minimum, must contain the following seven elements:
- A statement(s) demonstrating the employer’s commitment to addressing workplace harassment.
- The OHSA workplace harassment definition as set out below:
“workplace harassment” means,
“workplace sexual harassment” means,
- (a) engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct against a worker in a workplace that is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome, or
- (b) workplace sexual harassment;
Subsection 1 (4) A reasonable action taken by an employer or supervisor relating to the management and direction of workers or the workplace is not workplace harassment.
- (a) 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
- (b) 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;
- A statement indicating the policy applies to all workers and that it addresses workplace harassment from all sources such as customers, clients, employers, supervisors, workers and members of the public.
- A statement encouraging workers to report workplace harassment to the appropriate person.
- A statement the employer will investigate and deal with all complaints or incidents of workplace harassment in a fair and timely manner. The policy must specify that information about a complaint or incident will not be disclosed except to the extent necessary to protect workers, to investigate the complaint or incident, to take corrective action or as otherwise required by law.
- A statement that a worker is not to be penalized for reporting an incident or participating in a workplace harassment investigation. Penalizing a worker for exercising their rights under the OHSA is prohibited.
- Information about other resources for a worker to seek help to address workplace harassment (e.g. union representative, joint health and safety committee member or health and safety representative, Human Rights Legal Support Centre or employee assistance program, as appropriate).
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