“The new legislation protects us from harassment, bullying. The Ministry will investigate and there is now zero tolerance for it.”
Taking a respite from the heat wave that affected most of Central Canada last week, I dropped into a Tim Hortons for some cool refreshment. Seated near me was a group of workers who were dressed in similar uniforms. I think they were all cleaning staff from a nearby business. One of the group seemed to be a leader of sorts and was offering the above advice and information.
The leader was explaining to the group of workers that new legislation has been enacted in Ontario that will protect all of them if they are being harassed at work. As a human rights advisor and educator I was encouraged to overhear this educational conversation. I get excited when I hear people talking about how the law applies to their situation!
I was concerned however that part of the message this group was hearing was incorrect and misleading. Their leader was telling them that the “ministry” would investigate their complaints of harassment. This information was warmly received by the group, and I could almost see the complaint forms being filled out!!
The misinformation being distributed during this “staff meeting” reinforced for me the importance of providing competent staff training conducted by a knowledgeable, experienced professional.
The information these workers was being given was just plain wrong.
A quick search of the Ministry of Labour website reveals the following statement:
“It is not the role of ministry inspectors to resolve or mediate specific allegations of harassment in the workplace.”
The Ministry of Labour will investigate to ensure employers have policies and procedures in place for dealing with complaints of harassment and violence.
The ministry will investigate to ensure you have completed a violence risk assessment specific to your workplace.
The ministry will investigate to ensure you are communicating with your employees on these issues.
The ministry will not, as stated on its website, resolve specific complaints of harassment in the workplace.
Investigating specific complaints is the responsibility of the employer.
So, the group leader was partially correct. Legally, there is now less tolerance for harassment in the workplace in Ontario. Employers are responsible for creating a complaints process and educating employees on how a complaint will be handled.
The Ministry of Labour is responsible for ensuring employers have these systems in place; not for investigating complaints. The ministry furthermore has the legal authority to issue orders to comply where an employer is in contravention of the law and to prosecute an employer, supervisor or worker for failing to comply with an inspector’s order.
Learn—don’t Litigate. Obtain professional, knowledgeable assistance and train your staff today. Don’t wait for them to pick it up at Tim Hortons!
Human Rights Advisor, Learn Don’t Litigate