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Federal harassment and violence bill receives Royal Assent

On October 25, 2018, Bill C-65, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (harassment and violence), the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act and the Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1, received Royal Assent. Bill C-65 amends the Canada Labour Code, the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act and the Budget Implementation Act to include anti-violence and anti-harassment legislation for federally-regulated workplaces, including those on Parliament Hill.

While most provincial governments passed anti-harassment and anti-violence legislation much earlier than in 2018, those in the federal sector did not have legislation preventing and addressing incidents of workplace harassment and violence until Bill C-65 was proposed. The introduction of Bill C-65 was a response to the increasing number of complaints received in light of the #MeToo movement, specifically those pertaining to political leaders and members.

According to section 122(1) of the Code,

harassment and violence means any action, conduct or comment, including of a sexual nature, that can reasonably be expected to cause offence, humiliation or other physical or psychological injury or illness to an employee, including any prescribed action, conduct or comment.

As a result, Bill C-65 sets out specific obligations for the employer to prevent and address workplace violence and harassment. They include:

  • take proactive steps to prevent and protect employees from workplace harassment and violence;
  • provide workplace harassment and violence training to employees, supervisors and managers, specifically ensuring employees are informed of their rights and obligations as outlined in the legislation and the employer’s policies;
  • ensure that incidents of workplace harassment and violence are investigated, recorded and reported;
  • respond to occurrences of harassment and violence in the workplace;
  • offer support to those affected by harassment and violence in the workplace;
  • protect the privacy of those involved in a workplace harassment or violence investigation;
  • ensure that the person receiving workplace harassment and violence complaints has the knowledge, training and experience in handling such complaints and in understanding the legislation.

Thus, Bill C-65 expanded the obligations of federally-regulated employers to include the prevention and protection of employees against harassment and violence in the workplace.

Practically speaking, it is important for federally-regulated employers to review their policies and to amend them to include prevention and ways to address incidents of violence and harassment in the workplace. Specifically, an employer’s policy should include: the definitions of workplace harassment and violence, the ways in which to prevent against harassment and violence in the workplace, the process of making a complaint of harassment or violence in the workplace, outlining the employer’s investigation process including prohibiting retaliation or reprisals against those making a complaint or participating in an investigation, and how and where employees affected by workplace violence and harassment can obtain support. It is also prudent that employers conduct training relating to their workplace harassment and violence policies and processes.

For assistance in implementing the changes as outlined in Bill C-65, please contact our team.