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Manitoba joins other provinces in legislating against psychological harassment

manitoba-safeworkOn the same day that First Reference employees were taking their first mandatory training session on our violence and harassment program, Manitoba informed employers that it would be updating its Workplace, Safety and Health Regulation to include specific protection against psychological harassment. The regulation already protects workers from workplace violence and harassment, and the provincial legislature is looking at a Workplace safety and health amendment act to cover workplace violence and harassment, but this update to the regulation is intended to address “intimidation, bullying and humiliation” and other similar behaviours at work, from which workers previously had no explicit protection.

Although the province has released little information on the updated regulation, it expects employers to comply by February 1, 2011—three months from now.

The government says, “Employers will be required to put in place measures to prevent harassment and address it if it occurs.” This means employers must:

  • Develop and follow a written policy and action plan to prevent and/or stop harassment in the workplace
  • Make sure all workers know and follow the harassment prevention policy at all times

It appears that the government expects employers to apply the existing workplace harassment policy (Part 10 of the WSH regulation) to psychological harassment. This means: assessing the risk, developing a plan to reduce or eliminate the risk, creating a policy and procedures, providing clear instruction on what to do in the event of harassment, and training employees on the policy.

SAFE Work Manitoba has released a brochure featuring an expanded definition of harassment, which includes psychological harassment, and a helpful list of examples.

Two main types of harassment are covered under the regulation.

1) The first type is defined as any inappropriate conduct, comment, display, action or gesture by a person that is made on the basis of:

  • Race, creed, religion, colour
  • Sex, sexual orientation, gender-determined characteristics
  • Marital status, family status, source of income
  • Political belief, political association, political activity
  • Disability, physical size or weight
  • Age, nationality, ancestry or place of origin

2) The second type relates to what is sometimes referred to as bullying. This may involve:

  • Severe, repeated conduct that adversely affects a worker’s psychological or physical well-being if it could reasonably cause a worker to be humiliated or intimidated
  • A single occurrence, if it is shown to have a lasting, harmful effect on a worker

Forms of harassment:

  • Verbal or written abuse or threats
  • Insulting, derogatory (mean, critical, embarrassing) comments, jokes or gestures
  • Personal ridicule (put-downs, teasing) or malicious (mean) gossip
  • Malicious or uncalled-for interference with another’s work
  • Refusal to work or co-operate with others
  • Interfering with or vandalizing (damaging) personal property

Understanding Manitoba‘s New Requirements for Preventing Harassment at Work also offers an outline of how to develop a harassment prevention policy, and a list of strong management practices to create a healthy work environment.

Speaking of managers, employers and their supervisory staff must understand that reasonable managerial actions, including offering employees feedback and meting out discipline, do not constitute harassment. In other words, while managers should be careful to treat employees with respect, they need not fear that their individual management style will lead to harassment claims or charges.

SAFE Work Manitoba promises several more related documents, including a bulletin on the new regulatory requirements, a bulletin on harassment prevention requirements, an updated guideline on preventing violence and harassment in the workplace and a sample harassment prevention policy.

We’ll have more information for you as it becomes available.

First Reference offers a detailed guide to preventing violence and harassment in the workplace, which covers relevant occupational health and safety laws across Canada. We are currently in the process of updating the guide to include the changes in Manitoba, and we’ll be sure to let you know when the update is complete.

Adam Gorley
First Reference Human Resources, Compliance and Internal Controls Editor

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Adam Gorley

Adam Gorley is a copywriter, editor and researcher at First Reference. He contributes regularly to First Reference Talks, Inside Internal Controls and other First Reference publications. He writes about general HR issues, accessibility, privacy, technology in the workplace, accommodation, violence and harassment, internal controls and more. Read more
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