Network - Fall 2011 - (Page 39)
Ask Field Law
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We’ve got the answers! In our new column, Ask Field Law, the law firm will answer readers’ legal questions that are of general interest to HRIA members. Ask Field Law will appear regularly.
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What is the legal framework for handling violence or harassment in the workplace?
Any consideration of violence and harassment in the workplace must obviously involve a consideration of each, an exploration of the legal bases of treating violence and also harassment in the workplace. But I would also suggest that any such consideration should also include a non-legal consideration. After all, we all have experience with violence and harassment as a human problem: whether we were on the receiving end or the giving end in the playground or classroom, we all intrinsically understand that bullying and its more evil sibling, violence, manifest themselves in various spheres of human interaction, especially where there are issues of power differentials. So what is the Alber tan response to this? Does it differ from approaches in other Canadian jurisdictions? Let’s start with the second: Alberta is part of the majority of jurisdictions that deal with violence in the workplace in its Occupational Health and Safety
legislation. Interestingly, only four jurisdictions—Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec—include harassment in their OHS or labour standards legislation. Why would OHS legislation be the site for these protections? As a general proposition, I would suggest that it arises from the growing recognition of employers’ ability and now obligation to look after the health and safety of workers. OHS law has increasingly been looked to as the answer to tragedies in the workplace, the motivator to making our workplace culture a safer one. With the recent great increase in fines, seen as incentive to influence behaviour in the workplace, employers have been thrust in the role of workplace transformers. The Alberta approach to balance in the workplace is encompassed by Part 27 of the Alberta OHS code. (As you probably know by now, the Alberta OHS legislation is divided between the primary act, the regulations, and the OHS code. Unlike an act or regulation, the code is designed to be a flexible, living document, one that can be easily
changed and adapted to current needs of any particular industry, following consultation.) As one might expect, Part 27 of the OHS code is very similar in its approach to this workplace hazard as other hazards. The hazard of violence must be treated as any other hazard. Employers must prepare workers on how to handle incidents of violence. Policies and procedures with respect to workplace violence must not only be developed, they must also be properly communicated to workers. Appropriate responses to violence must also be developed and communicated (though these are likely to be included in the aforementioned policies and procedures). When one speaks of “appropriate responses to violence,” this is meant to convey the gradations of workplace violence: surely a different response is appropriate for a shove at a Christmas party than for a death threat. Lastly, procedures for reporting and investigating incidents of workplace violence must also be developed and disseminated.
NETWORK O Fall 2011 O 39
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Network - Fall 2011
HRIA Chair’s Message
The Bully Wears Heels
Workplace of Respect — Addressing Violence & Bullying
Cyber-Bullying — A Workplace Issue
Workplace Bullying: North America’s Silent Epidemic
Workplace Bullying — An Employer’s Obligations
Seeing the Warning Signs — Domestic Violence in the Workplace
Ask Field Law
The HR Office True-life Tales from the HR Profession
Index of Advertisers
Network - Fall 2011