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Key elements of Bill 132, Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act (Supporting Survivors and Challenging Sexual Violence and Harassment), 2016 (“Bill 132”) come into force today, amending the Occupational Health and Safety Act (“OHSA”). As a result, employers are required to implement comprehensive policies, programs, and investigative procedures to address workplace harassment. Bill 132 also expands the definition of “workplace harassment” to include “workplace sexual harassment”. As we stated in our blog post earlier this year, Bill 132 will require most Ontario employers to revisit their workplace harassment policies and programs. Employers who have not already done so, should expeditiously do the following:

  1. In consultation with the committee or health and safety representative, if any, amend their existing workplace harassment policies and programs to comply with OHSA requirements. Among other things, this includes:
    • specifically include “workplace sexual harassment” in the policies and programs;
    • ensure investigations “appropriate in the circumstances” are conducted into incidents and complaints of workplace harassment;
    • set out how investigations will be carried out, including how a worker who has allegedly experienced workplace harassment and the alleged harasser “will be informed of the results of the investigation and of any corrective action that has been taken or that will be taken as a result of the investigation”;
  2. Ensure sufficient information and instruction is provided to incoming and existing employees regarding workplace harassment; and
  3. Set a timeline to review the policies and programs at least annually.

We anticipate that the Ministry of Labour will conduct inspections to ensure employers are complying with the new legislative requirements. Employers who do not comply with the new requirements may be liable for non-compliance, which may include a substantial fine. We would be pleased to assist employers in meeting the requirements of Bill 132. If you require assistance, please contact a member of our team.

Please Note: Bill 132 also amends the legislation governing colleges and universities. These amendments come into force on January 1, 2017. Colleges and universities will need to have a sexual violence policy in place that outlines how the institution will respond to and address incidents or complaints of sexual violence involving students. For further information on the obligations for colleges and universities, please refer to our earlier blog post.