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The case of ‘hazing’ and ‘horseplay’ in the workplace continued

workplace-bullying

Image taken from: schooltipline.wordpress.com

In my previous post on “hazing” and “horseplay” in the workplace, I referred to a recent incident where photos and videos revealed some very questionable events involving employees at the transportation and works department of their municipal employer. Since the acts were potentially criminal, the police became involved and started an investigation.

Though there were rumours that the investigation had ended, and no charges would be laid, and the employer made statements to that effect, it is clear that the investigation is not over.

In fact, a decision may be a week or two away. “It’s still under investigation”, said the official spokesperson for the police. “It’s too early to make a determination on the outcome of the investigation”.

One of the city councillors excused herself from an in-camera session with the police chief once she learned that the police investigation was ongoing. She felt that it would be inappropriate, and a conflict of interest for a city councillor, an employer representative, to stay at the meeting while the police investigation was still in progress.

Though some have said that the employees consented to the horseplay and hazing, one may wonder if that was really the case. Interestingly, the city councillor who excused herself from the meeting compared the situation to a child being bullied at school. Initially, the victim tells no one about the bullying in order to be a good sport and not appear like a wimp.

With the case of the employees, grown men, being duct-taped and spanked at work, perhaps these employees were victims who felt they had to “grin and bear it” to keep their jobs.

Does that really constitute “consent” in criminal law? I’m wondering: do you think that the employees consented to this appalling behaviour in the workplace?

At this point, two supervisors have been suspended without pay for an unknown period of time. They were not terminated because the employer’s investigator concluded that the employees participated in the hazing rituals willingly.

Time will tell as to whether the police will concur with the employer’s decision in this hazing and horseplay case.

What I find weird is that we haven’t heard from the Ministry of Labour, Occupational Health and Safety Division, since this is a clear case of workplace violence and harassment—even though the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act provisions that obligate employers to protect employees from violence and harassment in the workplace only come into force June 15, 2010. Moreover, the employer has a general duty to provide a safe and healthy environment, but there’s no indication that the Occupational Health and Safety Division inspected the workplace for any violations to the Act and Regulations, or reviewed the employer’s investigation report to ensure that measures have been put in place to prevent this situation from ever happening again.

But this story is not over yet—I think!?

Christina Catenacci
First Reference Human Resources and Compliance Editor

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Christina Catenacci

Christina Catenacci, BA, LLB, LLM, was called to the Ontario Bar in 2002 and has since been a member of the Ontario Bar Association. Christina worked as an editor with First Reference between February 2005 and August 2015, working on publications including The Human Resources Advisor (Ontario, Western and Atlantic editions), HRinfodesk discussing topics in Labour and Employment Law. Christina has decided to pursue a PhD at the University of Western Ontario beginning in the fall of 2015. Read more
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