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Did you know that under the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act you are required to perform an investigation if there is an allegation of harassment? Under section 32.0.7 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), an employer must ensure that an investigation appropriate in the circumstances is conducted into incidents or complaints of workplace harassment.
Bill 168 was the original amendment to Ontario's Occupational Health and Safety Act (“OHSA”). It came into force on June 15, 2010 and aimed to protect workers from violence and harassment. The Bill outlines stiff penalties for all employers in Ontario who fail to meet their new responsibilities and duties under the law.
In 2015, the Ontario government introduced Bill 132, the Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act, which amends, among other statutes, the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA).
A workplace harassment investigation appropriate in the circumstances should:
Be undertaken promptly. It would be reasonable to complete the investigation as soon as possible within 90 days or less unless there are compelling reasons why a longer investigation is needed (e.g. there are multiple witnesses, a key witness is unavailable due to illness, etc.).
Be objective. The person conducting the investigation should not be involved in the incident and should not be under the direct control of the alleged harasser.
Maintain confidentiality. Information about the incident or complaint, including information about the people involved, should not be disclosed unless the disclosure is necessary to protect workers or is needed to investigate the incident or complaint, take corrective action and/or is otherwise required by law.
Be thorough. Reasonable efforts should be made to interview the worker who allegedly was harassed, the alleged harasser(s) and any witnesses, as appropriate in the circumstances. When interviewing, ask specific questions about the incident or complaint. For example, what did the person see, hear or experience. Take detailed interview notes, and make sure that relevant documents from the worker, alleged harasser, witnesses and the employer are collected and reviewed.
Person Conducting the Investigation
When there is an incident or complaint of workplace harassment, the employer must ensure that an investigation appropriate in the circumstances is conducted. The person conducting the investigation can be internal to the workplace (e.g., supervisor, senior manager, human resources staff), work at another employer location (e.g. a corporate office) or may be someone external to the organization (such as a human resource professional)
The person conducting the investigation should know about the workplace harassment and reprisal provisions under the OHSA and should have received information and instruction on the employer’s workplace harassment policy and program.
Our team of HR professionals use a standard template to interview all complainants, witnesses and the alleged perpetrator. Normally, we are able to start the investigation within three days of you contacting us. We review our findings and discuss the outcome with you. We recommend how to move forward including how to ‘repair’ the workplace.
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HRP4B offers professional information on Workplace Harassment, and will answer questions like.
How long can I wait to do the investigation?
What are the potential repercussions if I don’t investigate the complaint?
Should I allow the employee who is the ‘perpetrator’ continue to work with the alleged victim?
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