Workplace bullying and harassment can ruin an otherwise great job. We can offer some solutions in knowing your rights, how bullying and harassment if defined, and what you can do about it. This can help you rectify an otherwise sticky situation.
Firstly, know that employers are required to take steps to prevent bullying and harassment in the workplace. Likewise, employees are required to report bullying and harassment they experience or witness at work.
If you are experiencing bullying or harassment at work, the first step you should take is reporting it to your employer. Even if the employer does nothing, making a report of it will offer you important legal protections and rights.
What is bullying and harassment?
According to WorkSafeBC, bullying and harassment is any inappropriate conduct or comment towards a worker that is likely to cause the recipient humiliation or intimidation.
Any action taken by an employer or supervisor which relates to the management of workers is not considered bullying or harassment. The person at fault can either a co-worker or someone who has contact with the workplace, like a client.
Employers are responsible to prevent all kinds of bullying and harassment in their workplace.
Bullying and harassment are defined differently from one another.
Bullying fits mostly into the definition: inappropriate conduct that causes humiliation or intimidation.
Harassment is often linked to personal traits such as race, sex, disability, or sexual orientation. Sexual harassment tends to involve unwelcome sexual advances or comments.
Reporting bullying and harassment at work
The Workers Compensation Act and WorkSafeBC's Occupational Health & Safety Policies require all employees to report incidents of bullying and harassment. If you have been bullied or harassed, or if you know someone else has been, you must report this to a supervisor or manager.
Your harassment report does not need to be in writing - the employer must investigate every report - however for evidentiary purposes, a written report is helpful. The employer now has an obligation to make a reasonable inquiry into your report and resolve any bullying and harassment.
Reporting to WorkSafeBC
Employers are required to have procedures in place for employees to report bullying or harassment conducted by a supervisor or the employer themselves. You should contact the WorkSafeBC Prevention Information Line if your employer:
- Does not have an established procedure in place to report and address bullying and harassment.
- Does not follow their own procedures when responding to a report of bullying or harassment.
- Did not take reasonable steps to address the incident of bullying or harassment.
The Prevention Information Line will provide information and direct you to the next steps. After speaking to a prevention officer, you may submit a complaint via the Bullying and Harassment Questionnaire, which WorkSafeBC will use to determine if next steps are needed.
What does a WorkSafeBC complaint do?
WorkSafeBC complaints are intended to make sure employers have proper procedures in place and are fulfilling their obligation to investigate and resolve complaints. They have various methods available to force an employer to comply with their obligations, including administrative penalties.
Help! My employer retaliated when I filed a complaint.
Employers are not allowed to retaliate against you for reporting workplace bullying and harassment. Retaliation action can include suspension, demotion, loss of wages, change of employment terms, or a reprimand.
There are powerful remedies available through WorkSafeBC if your employer does retaliate. Our lawyers can help you resolve the situation or obtain compensation for the retaliation.
WorkSafeBC has a process for responding to bullying and harassment that is focused on preserving the employment relationship and relies on employers to take responsibility for what is happening in their workplace, sometimes after a push from WorkSafeBC. This process strongly protects employees from retaliation for submitting a complaint.