Woman making a frame around the sun with her hands at sunrise
Woman making a frame around the sun with her hands at sunrise
Woman making a frame around the sun with her hands at sunrise

Ontario’s Sexual Violence and Harassment Plan Act Passes First Reading

November 2015 Employment and Labour Bulletin 2 minutes read

On October 27, 2015, Bill 132, the Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act (Supporting Survivors and Challenging Sexual Violence and Harassment), 2015 passed first reading before the Ontario legislature.

Bill 132 is an omnibus bill that proposes to amend six Ontario statutes, including the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA).[1] If passed, Bill 132 will deliver on commitments under the Ontario Government’s action plan to stop sexual violence and harassment announced March 6, 2015.[2]

The proposed amendments to the OHSA are of particular interest to employers. They build on the changes made to the OHSA in 2010 under Bill 168 which imposed employer responsibilities related to addressing and preventing workplace violence and harassment. A definition of “workplace sexual harassment”, similar to that contained in the Human Rights Code prohibiting harassment because of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, will now be included in the definition of workplace harassment.

In addition, Bill 132 proposes to notably enhance the importance of workplace investigations by adding a number of specific employer obligations in conducting and following through with investigations into workplace harassment (including workplace sexual harassment). These include informing the alleged victim and harasser in writing of the results of the investigation and of any corrective action that has been or will be taken as a result of the investigation.

Most critically, OHSA inspectors will be empowered to order an employer to retain an impartial third party at the employer’s expense to conduct an investigation into an alleged incident of workplace harassment. It is unclear under what circumstances this may occur.

What this means for Employers

The proposed OHSA changes mean that employers will need to be vigilant in addressing workplace harassment. It is noteworthy that the proposed amendments identify both “incidents” and “complaints”. An employer should be aware of its obligations not only when a worker complains, but when the employer otherwise becomes aware of incidents of possible harassment.

Training will be a critical element in ensuring that internal investigators understand the law, how to conduct a proper investigation, draw conclusions from the factual findings, write a report and communicate to the alleged victim and harasser. An employer should want to control the investigation process and otherwise refer the matter to a third party only if it feels it is ill-equipped to investigate the matter itself.

by Kyle M. Lambert and Jennifer Hill, Student-at-Law

1. “Bill 132, Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act (Supporting Survivors and Challenging Sexual Violence And Harassment), 2015“, 1st reading, Ontario Legislative Assembly.

2. Ontario, “Ontario Strengthening Laws to Stop Sexual Violence and Harassment” (October 27, 215).

A Cautionary Note

The foregoing provides only an overview and does not constitute legal advice. Readers are cautioned against making any decisions based on this material alone. Rather, specific legal advice should be obtained.

© McMillan LLP 2015

Related Publications

post
Publication

Upcoming Changes to Ontario’s Auto Insurance Regime

Apr 12, 2021

The regulation of Ontario’s auto insurance market may undergo several key changes to enhance consumer
protection and foster greater competition and innovation.

post
Publication

Client Focused Reforms (CFRs): Everything you need to know about the new conflicts of interest requirements (but were afraid to ask)

Apr 12, 2021

The June 30, 2021 deadline for registered firms and their representatives to comply with the first phase of the CFRs relating to conflicts of interest is fast approaching. The new conflicts of interest requirements will require registrants to review and, where necessary, implement changes to their existing conflicts of interest policies and procedures.

post
Publication

British Columbia Employers Now at Risk of Expedited Workplace Closures

Apr 12, 2021

Effective April 12, 2021, health authorities will have the power to order the temporary closure of businesses as a
result of COVID-19 outbreaks in the workplace