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What Ontario Employers Should Know About Workplace Bullying

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Companies must be aware of workplace bullying as it fosters an undesirable workspace for all individuals. Moreover, provincial legislation requires employers in Ontario to guard their employees from workplace hazards, which includes bullying.

What qualifies as bullying?

Bullying is typically recognized as physical acts or verbal remarks that ‘mentally’ hurt or isolate an individual in the workforce. This behaviour is often repeated and aimed at degrading, intimidating, humiliating or offending.

Bullying can also take the form of demonstrating power through aggression. Examples of workplace violence or harassment are:

  • Intentionally impeding a person’s work
  • Social isolation or exclusion
  • Attempting to hit a co-worker
  • Setting up an individual for failure, through unreasonable deadlines
  • Communicating jokes that are ‘clearly offensive’ through spoken word or e-mail

It should be noted that sound action by an employer or supervisor related to employee management, respectful disagreement and constructive work-related criticism are not considered bullying.

What do Ontario laws say to employers about bullying?

Although Ontario does not have specific laws addressing workplace bullying, there is existing legislation on workplace violence and harassment. Both the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and the Ontario Human Rights Code (OHRC) address this topic from unique angles.

The OHSA outlines a clear standard regarding physical and mental health and safety for all parties in the workforce. Meanwhile, the OHRC focuses on discrimination on various grounds, such as sexual orientation, marital status, age, religion, race, gender and more.

What are employer responsibilities to prevent bullying in the workplace?

It’s important that employers aren’t passive concerning this serious issue. An organization’s management should communicate their commitment to preventing bullying through a comprehensive written policy.

Employers should also have measures in place for employees to report incidents of workplace violence and harassment. Without established policies to protect employees from bullying, employers are exposed to the risk of law suits and potential financial penalties.

Do you need assistance addressing bullying in your workplace?

Our experts can help you develop company policies as well as with any other HR and health and safety advice you need. See how we have helped other small and medium businesses get their business compliant with provincial legislation.