09. July 2019 0

WorkSafeBC requires all employers to both take reasonable steps to prevent or minimize workplace bullying and harassment and also requires employers to develop and implement written procedures for the reporting of incidents or complaints of workplace harassment and bullying.  Section 115(1)(a) and Section 115(2)(e) of the Workers Compensation Act place the following duties on the employer:

  1. Every employer must
  • Ensure the health and safety of
    • All workers working for that employer, and
    • Any other workers present at a workplace at which the employer’s work is being carried out…

2. Without limiting subsection (1) an employer must

  • Provide to the employers workers the information, instruction, training and supervision necessary to ensure the health and safety of those workers in carrying out their work.

Policy Item D3-115-2 set out the following as being the reasonable steps that an employer must take to prevent or minimize workplace bullying and harassment include the following:

  • Developing a policy statement with respect to workplace bullying and harassment not being acceptable or tolerated;
  • Taking steps to prevent where possible, or otherwise minimize, workplace bullying and harassment;
  • Developing and implementing procedures for workers to report incidents or complaints of workplace bullying and harassment including how, when and to whom a worker should report incidents or complaints.  Included must be procedures for a worker to report if the employer, supervisor or person acting on behalf of the employer, is the alleged bully and harasser;
  • Develop and implement procedures for how the employer will deal with incidents or complaints of workplace bullying and harassment including:
    • How and when investigations will be conducted;
    • What will be included in the investigation;
    • Roles and responsibilities of employers, supervisors, workers and others;
    • Follow-up to the investigation (description of corrective actions, timeframe, dealing with adverse symptoms, etc.); and
    • Record keeping requirements.
  • Informing workers of the policy statement and the steps taken to prevent or minimize workplace bullying and harassment;
  • Train 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 incidents of bullying and harassment.
  • Annually review the policy statement, steps taken to minimize bullying and harassments, and the procedures for reporting and investigation allegations;
  • Not engaging in bullying and harassment of workers and supervisors; and
  • Applying and complying with the employer’s policies and procedures on bullying and harassment.

Workplace bullying and harassment is not only a potential source of liability for employers but it also undermines productivity and culture in the work place.  Implementation of the steps outlined in Policy Item D3-115-2 will assist in not only mitigating the risk of workplace bullying and harassment occurring but also can assist in insulating or lessening employers from liability in the event that harassment in the workplace occurs.  Investigations can be conducted either internally or externally.  Internal investigations are appropriate in circumstances where the allegations do not involve serious incidents of bullying or harassment and where you have a human resources professional who has been trained in workplace investigation techniques.  An external investigator, such as a lawyer, should be retained to conduct the investigation in circumstances of serious allegations such as sexual harassment or assault or when the allegation concerns an individual at a senior level of management.  Done appropriately there is opportunity for an investigation conducted by a lawyer to maintain confidentiality and privilege in the event that litigation or statutory proceedings are commenced with respect to the alleged bullying or harassment.

For help developing your workplace bullying and harassment policy and procedures or with conducting investigations into allegations, contact Rose Keith at or anyone else from our team listed on the Authors page.

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