While the U.S. snoozes, Canada’s Parliament is taking steps to protect public sector workers from bullying and harassment in the workplace.
Canada’s proposed Bill C 65 would amend Canada’s Labour Code by expanding the definition of “workplace violence” to include both physical and psychological injuries and illnesses.
The bill’s definition of “harassment and violence” includes “any action, conduct or comment, including of a sexual nature, that can reasonably be expected to cause offence, humiliation or other physical or psychological injury or illness to an employee.”
The bill was passed by Canada’s Senate and is now pending before the House of Commons, which is seeking public input on a proposed regulatory framework to implement the bill. If approved, the bill will apply to all federally regulated workplaces, including workers in the Canadian Parliament, banks, telecommunications and transportation industries.
The proposed bill requires:
- Employers to investigate, record and report all “occurrences of harassment or violence” known to the employer.
- Employers to provide supervisors with appropriate training to prevent abuse.
- Employees must have option of filing unresolved complaints to Canada’s Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour. The Minister is not obliged to investigate complaints that are deemed to have been adequately dealt with or which are considered trivial, frivolous or vexatious.
- Employers must protect the privacy of complainants and respondents; Workplace committees, policy committees and health and safety representatives would no longer be permitted to participate in investigations related to workplace harassment or violence.
- Employers must designate a person to receive complaints so employees are not required to complain to their supervisors, a provision that is intended to protect workers whose complaint is against the supervisor.
The bill would significantly broaden Canada’s Occupational Health and Safety Code, which presently requires employers only to report instances of accident, occupational disease or occupational illness. Canada’s health and safety code is the equivalent of America’s Occupational Safety and Health Act.
American Workers Remain Vulnerable
Despite years of advocacy, American workers have no protection from workplace bullying under federal law, despite the fact that nearly half of American workers report being bullied at work.
American workers have no protection under federal law from workplace bullying.
American workers are protected from legally defined “harassment” if they are members of a protected class under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, (ADEA), and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, (ADA).
Harassment is considered unwelcome conduct that becomes a condition of continued employment, or is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive.
The bar in harassment cases generally is set very high by federal courts.
Research shows workplace bullying affects nearly half of U.S. employees.