Are you in Compliance with Workplace Bullying and Harassment Policies?

Since November 2013, WorkSafeBC has implemented three occupational health and safety workplace bullying and harassment policies. The policies define bullying and harassment and identify what WorkSafeBC considers to be reasonable steps for employers, workers and supervisors to take to prevent or minimize workplace bullying and harassment. To assist employers in understanding the legal requirements, WorkSafeBC launched an online bullying and harassment prevention tool kit, which includes a handbook, fact sheets, videos, training tools and customizable templates.

Under the policies, bullying and harassment include any inappropriate conduct or comment by a person towards a worker that the person knew or reasonably ought to have known would cause that worker to be humiliated or intimidated. Excluded from the definition is any reasonable action taken by an employer or supervisor relating to the management and direction of workers or their place of employment.

Under the Workers Compensation Act, employers are required to ensure the health and safety of their workers. That obligation includes an obligation to take reasonable steps to prevent or minimize workplace bullying and harassment. Under the policies, WorkSafeBC identifies the steps that an employer must take to satisfy this obligation, including:

  1. developing a policy statement with respect to workplace bullying and harassment not being acceptable or tolerated;
  2. taking steps to prevent or minimize workplace bullying and harassment;
  3. developing and implementing procedures for workers to report incidents or complaints of workplace bullying and harassment;
  4. developing and implementing procedures for how the employer will address incidents or complaints of workplace bullying and harassment;
  5. informing workers of the policy statement in (a) and the steps taken in (b);
  6. training supervisors and workers on recognizing the potential for bullying and harassment, responding to bullying and harassment, and procedures for reporting and how the employer will deal with complaints of bullying and harassment;
  7. annually reviewing the above steps;
  8. not engaging in bullying and harassment of workers and supervisors, and
  9. applying and complying with the employer’s policies and procedures on bullying and harassment.

Similar policies have also been approved setting out the obligations of workers and supervisors in relation to workplace bullying and harassment.

By Andrew Wood, Harris & Company LLP. This article is reprinted here with the permission from Harris & Company LLP.