New Legislation: Non-Discrimination and the Workplace
Empowering employees to safely report incidents of harassment and discrimination will help foster a more inclusive workplace environment.
Speaking out about harassment and discrimination in the workplace can be intimidating. Having to file a formal complaint against a coworker can stop employees from reporting incidents in the workplace for fear of reprisal.
As Wade Poziomka, human rights, union-side labour law and employment law champion, explains: incidents that go uninvestigated can have a harmful effect on employees.
“The days of presenting employees with the option to file a ‘formal complaint’ or not are over as far as it relates to harassment in the workplace. Too often in the past employers would convince an employee not to move forward with a formal complaint. Employers are now required to investigate not only ‘complaints’, but also ‘incidents’ of potential harassment. Knowledge of the incident is sufficient to trigger this obligation, whether or not an employee files a formal complaint,” states Poziomka.
In Ontario, for example, the Occupational Health and Safety Act has been updated to:
- Create a positive obligation for employers to investigate complaints and incidents of potential harassment; and
- Protect employees from reprisal for having made a complaint in good faith or having taken part in a harassment investigation.
When the allegations of harassment include human rights grounds, employers are vicariously liable for actions of their employees for most violations of the Human Rights Code.
With recent developments in the law, companies are responsible for investigating and taking appropriate steps in relation to all incidents of harassment and discrimination in the workplace.
Interested in reading more about how your company can work toward being more inclusive? Read our blog post “The First Step to Making Your Leadership More Diverse” and sign up for our weekly Sunday Snippets newsletter to stay up-to-date on best practices for diversity, inclusion and equity in the workplace.