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The Ontario government passed Bill 132, the Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act, which amended, among other statutes, the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA). It follows the changes to OHSA brought in by Bill 168, which set out how harassment is to be dealt with as a health and safety issue in the workplace. Bill 132 amends the OHSA to expand the meaning of workplace harassment to include workplace sexual harassment.
“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 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.”
The OHSA re-affirms that reasonable actions taken by an employer or supervisor to manage and direct workers or the workplace do not constitute workplace sexual harassment.
Section 32.06(2) of the OHSA, which addresses the employers requirement to implement a workplace harassment policy, has been broadened to incorporate an obligation to:
In addition, Bill 132, Prevent Sexual Harassment in the Workplace, outlines new employer responsibilities to make sure that:
Bill 132 explicitly states that the outcome of a workplace investigation and any report produced for the investigation is not a report that must, pursuant to OHSA Section 25(2), be supplied to a Joint Health & Safety Committee, a worker health and safety representative, or other workers.
Bill 132, Prevent Sexual Harassment in the Workplace, amends the OHSA to empower health and safety inspectors to require an employer to conduct an investigation, at the employer’s expense, by an unbiased party and to obtain, also at the employer’s cost, a report from that unbiased party.
Changes to the Limitations Act under Bill 132 mean that where any of the offending conduct has been engaged in – including where there is a claim for negligence, a breach of fiduciary or other duties and/or vicarious liability – there is no applicable limitation period applicable to a proceeding regardless of the expiry of any previously applicable limitation period or the fact that the proceeding commenced prior to the passing of Bill 132 except if the proceeding was: (1) dismissed by a court and no further appeal is available; or (2) settled by the parties and the settlement is legally binding. Bill 132 took effect on September 8, 2016.
HR Proactive Inc. also offers Workplace Sexual Harassment Investigation Services and One-on-One Remedial Sensitivity Training Sessions for all employees within your organization. Training can be customized for Employees, Supervisors, Managers, and Board of Directors. The best defense against Sexual Harassment in the Workplace is to have a Policy and Conduct Training, and take all complaints seriously.
Visit www.respectintheworkplacetraining.ca for Canada’s number one choice for harassment and violence online training.
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For more information about our Prevent Sexual Harassment & Violence training products and services, give our subject matter specialists a call or email us.
HR Proactive Inc. has been helping businesses create respectful workplaces since 1997.
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