Ontario Bill 168, the Occupational Health and Safety Amendment Act, completed its third and final reading in the Ontario Legislature on December 9, 2009. Bill 168 was finalized as law upon receiving Royal Assent on December 15, 2009 and took effect on June 15, 2010.
New Obligations Regarding Workplace Violence
Bill 168, now known as Section 32 of the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act (Ontario OHSA), represents a significant change in how, and to what extent, both workplace violence and harassment is regulated in Ontario. It also broadens the definitions of workplace violence and places new requirements on Ontario employers.
Under Bill 168, workplace violence is defined as:
- The exercise of physical force by a person against a worker, in a workplace, that causes or could cause physical injury to the worker;
- An attempt to exercise physical force against a worker, in a workplace, that could cause physical injury to the worker; or
- A statement or behaviour that it is reasonable for a worker to interpret as a threat to exercise physical force against the worker, in a workplace, that could cause physical injury to the worker.
Extended Definition of Workplace Harassment
Bill 168, now known as Section 32 of the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act (Ontario OHSA), broadens and extends the definition of workplace harassment beyond what is presently covered under the Ontario Human Rights Code. The Human Rights Code has long prohibited harassment in the workplace based on race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, age, record of offences, marital status, family status, or disability.
Traditionally, harassment that was based on other, non-protected grounds was not actionable, unless the employer had extended additional protection by way of policy or it had agreed, as part of the collective bargaining process with a union, to incorporate broader protection in a collective agreement. Bill 168 will change this because it will require employers to treat harassment based on non-protected grounds in the same manner as harassment based on code-protected grounds.
Bill 168 defines workplace harassment as engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct against a worker in a workplace that is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome and not already protected under the Human Rights Code.
Provisions of Bill 168
Bill 168, now known as Section 32 of the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act (Ontario OHSA),
outlines many requirements for Ontario employers for workplace violence and harassment, including:
- Specific assessments to measure the risk of workplace violence.
- Measures to control the risks identified in these assessments.
- Written and posted policies and procedures addressing these risks.
- Employee training in these policies and procedures.
- Incidents or threats of workplace violence must be reported to the employer or supervisor.
- Establishment of how the employer investigates and manages incidents, complaints, or threats of workplace violence.
- Employee refusal to work where he/she has reason to believe that he/she is in danger of being a victim of workplace violence.
Additionally, regarding domestic violence—if an employer is aware or ought to be aware that domestic violence that is likely to expose a worker to physical injury may occur in the workplace, the employer must take every reasonable precaution to protect the worker.
Webinar Recording: Ontario Bill 168: Workplace Violence—Prevention and Response
This 60-minute webinar offers practical response skills and proven strategies that are vital during the critical moments of a crisis. The webinar will:
- Look at workplace violence as a continuum of behaviour.
- Discuss the impact of workplace violence.
- Examine how minimizing workplace violence starts with the workplace culture.
- Provide a general overview of Ontario Bill 168 relative to workplace violence.
View the Ontario Bill 168 webinar.
Click here for more information about Bill 168. [PDF].