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Understanding Bill 132 and Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

What is Bill 132?

Bill 132, the Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act, addresses sexual violence, sexual harassment, and domestic violence as each relate to the workplace. Specifically, the Act significantly changes the duties and obligations of provincially regulated employers. These amendments are found under Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA).   And although in full effect, many employers are still unsure of how this impacts their organization. Here’s what employers need to know about sexual violence and harassment in the workplace.

Defining Workplace Sexual Harassment

Understanding Bill 132 starts with recognizing what exactly workplace sexual harassment means; it is defined as:

  • 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.

Most importantly, under Bill 132, employers are required to develop and maintain a written workplace harassment policy. And, they must do so in consultation with a committee or a health and safety representative.

5 New Obligations for Employers Under Bill 132

Bill 132 outlines new responsibilities for employers. With this, the section of the OHSA that lays out workplace harassment policy extends its requirement of employers to:

  1. Conduct investigations for complaints of workplace sexual violence and harassment, whenever appropriate;
  2. Inform employees who allege and are accused of workplace harassment in writing. Explain the results of investigations and any corrective action required;
  3. Include procedures for employees to report harassment to someone other than their superior if that person is the alleged harasser;
  4. Explain how personal information gathered during a harassment investigation will remain confidential. This is in exception to when it is a requirement for the investigation, for taking corrective action or if it must be disclosed by law; and
  5. Detail how to disclose the conclusion of an investigation in writing to employees alleging and accused of sexual harassment, as well as any resulting action required from the investigation.

Furthermore, the Ministry of Labour is able to compel an employer to hire an impartial investigator – at the employer’s expense – to investigate and produce a report on the workplace.

Do you have an Updated Sexual Harassment Policy for your Business?

If you’re unsure of these changes, it’s always best to ask for HR advice. Don’t wait until you’re company is dealing with a harassment complaint to find out exactly how Bill 132 impacts your business.