The government of Ontario recently introduced Bill 168 which, if passed, would significantly expand employers’ obligations under the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act to include protecting workers from workplace harassment and workplace violence, including domestic violence which may occur in the workplace.
The Bill requires employers to assess the risk of violence in the workplace and to develop policies to address harassment and workplace violence. Under the Bill, workplace harassment is defined as “engaging in a course of vexatious comments or conduct against a worker in a workplace that is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome.”
Employers are further required to take all reasonable precautions in the circumstances for the protection of the worker if domestic violence would likely expose a worker to physical injury in the workplace and the employer becomes aware or ought to reasonably be aware of the situation. The Bill does not require employees to inform the employer if they are a potential victim of domestic violence or are concerned about being harmed while at work.
The Bill also imposes a requirement to provide employees with information about persons with a history of violent behaviour if the employee might expect to encounter that person in the course of his work and the risk of workplace violence is likely to expose the employee to injury. The Bill also permits workers to refuse to work where they have reason to believe the work may endanger them.
While this is an Ontario Bill and has not yet become law, it may forecast similar legislative obligations in British Columbia.
(Click here for link to Bill-168)