Authored by Philip Milley, Associate Director of Legal Affairs
On November 9, 2016 Bill 208, Occupational Health and Safety (Protection from Workplace Harassment) Amendment Act, 2016 was tabled in the Legislative Assembly of Alberta. This proposed legislation aims to amend the Alberta Occupational Health and Safety Act (the “Act”) to include a prohibition on workplace harassment. This amendment expands the scope of prohibited workplace harassment that is covered by the Act. Notably, if this legislation becomes law, the Act will prohibit both physical and psychological injury.
The new definition of workplace harassment will include inappropriate conduct, comment, display, action or gesture that is based on a prohibited ground. It will also include conduct, comment, display, action or gesture that adversely affects a person’s psychological or physical well-being where it constitutes a threat to the health and safety. Under the proposed legislation harassment could result from repeated conduct or a single serious occurrence that has a lasting harmful effect on a person.
This proposed amendment will result in several additional obligations for employers in Alberta. As such, charities should take note of the following highlights:
- Employers will have a Duty to Protect Workers from Harassment: The proposed amendment places a duty on employers to ensure, as far as practicable, that workers are not exposed harassment, physical or psychological. The legislation clarifies that reasonable action relating to managerial direction does not constitute harassment.
- Employers will have to Maintain a Workplace Harassment Policy: Importantly, the proposed amendments require that employers maintain a workplace harassment policy, however, the requirements for that policy are not outlined in the Bill and are likely to follow in subsequent regulation.
- Employers will have a Duty to Investigate: The proposed legislation also requires that employers are required to investigate all workplace harassment complaints.
While it is not known when (or whether) this legislation will be passed, charities operating in Alberta should consider the impact this legislation will have on their operation and should prepare to adopt a workplace harassment policy in accordance with the legislation.
Noteworthy is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Every organization’s circumstances are unique. Before acting on the basis of information contained in this blog, readers should consult with a qualified lawyer for advice specific to their situation.