The Current

Ontario law strengthens workplace harassment investigations, says lawyer

Employment lawyer Janice Rubin says Ontario's Bill 132 is game-changing. It's the first time in Canada where employers are obligated to investigate both, complaints and incidents of harassment, and also must train employees on this issue.
As of Sept. 8, Ontario's government can order an employer to allow - and pay for - a third-party workplace harassment investigation. (Shutterstock)

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According to a 2014 Angus Reid poll, 28 per cent of Canadians say they've been sexually harassed at work.  And the vast majority  — four out of five  — of those say they didn't tell their employer.

Now, a new Ontario law in effect Sept. 8, makes employers responsible for uncovering any harassment at work. Employment lawyer Janice Rubin calls this move a gamechanger.

"It is the first time in the country that we have a crystal clear statutory directive to employers that they must conduct workplace investigations into complaints of workplace harassment and incidents of workplace harassment, and that directive has teeth," Rubin tells The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.

Rubin explains that if an employer fails to do an investigation, the ministry of labour can intervene and order an investigation be done by an external third party at the employer's expense.

The fact that incidents of harassment were included in Bill 132 as an obligation for employers to uncover is very significant in Rubin's opinion because it means "employers are going to have to be increasingly vigilant in terms of responding to information that comes to their attention."

In April of last year, Rubin led the investigation into CBC's handling of former Q host Jian Ghomeshi's behaviour. She tells Tremonti that CBC will not be affected by this new legislation because CBC is federally regulated and this law is for provincially regulated employers in Ontario. But Rubin does say that groundbreaking legislation can often influence other jurisdictions.

"I think it is absolutely within the realm of our imagination that we would have similar provisions in a federal piece of legislation that would affect federally regulated entities."

Listen to the full conversation at the top of this web post.

This segment was produced by The Current's Karin Marley.