Bullying and Harassment in the Workplace

All workers in British Columbia are protected against bullying and harassing conduct of others in the workplace. WorkSafeBC has introduced rules that require all BC employers to implement anti-bullying and harassment statements, policies, and resolution procedures, in every workplace. Every worker – from employees to contractors, and from casual labourers to executive managers – is protected against bullying and harassing conduct from any person – whether coworkers, managers, customers, or competitors – while at work.

What is Bullying and Harassment?

Most people know when they’re being bullied or harassed. WorkSafeBC describes bullying and harassment as any behaviour that a person knows or ought to know will cause someone to be intimidated or humiliated. Actions taken by managers in the exercise of authority aren’t bullying or harassment, as long as they’re not taken in a humiliating or intimidating way.

Every employer must have a Bullying and Harassment Policy.

WorkSafeBC has put this burden on every BC employer. The policy could be as simple as a statement that bullying and harassment won’t be tolerated by the employer and a brief definition of bullying and harassment. For larger employers with more complicated operations, the policy could go into more detail about the employer's standards of conduct and give examples of different kinds of bullying and harassment that apply specifically to that workplace. For purposes of complying with WorkSafeBC’s requirements, just a simple statement will do.

Every employer must have a Complaint Procedure.

A policy is only helpful if it gives employees effective tools to address bullying and harassment in the workplace. With that in mind, WorkSafeBC also requires that every employer have a written complaint procedure that sets out how employees can make a complaint, how the employer will investigate the complaint, and what might result from the investigation. Again, WorkSafeBC doesn’t require a detailed process, although for many employers the process will be detailed. What’s required is that the employee knows how to complain and what will happen when they do.

Every employer must prevent bullying and harassment.

Having a policy and some procedures isn’t good enough.  Each employer needs to be vigilant about preventing, recognizing, and resolving bullying and harassment in their workplace. Failure to do so can result in damages and administrative penalties.

What if the employer doesn’t have a Policy or Complaint Procedure?

Just because the employer hasn’t complied with WorkSafeBC’s requirements doesn’t mean its workers aren’t protected. Employees can always make complaints of bullying or harassment to their managers, who must deal with the complaint in good faith. Employees can also complain straight to WorkSafeBC.  Where the employer does have a policy and complaint procedure, it must adhere to its own standards and procedures.

What’s next?

If you’re an employee experiencing bullying and harassment, you can take control by using the protections and tools granted by WorkSafeBC. Our knowledgeable and friendly lawyers can help you determine whether you have a claim and what to do about it.

If you’re an employer trying to protect your workers from bullying and harassment, we can help you comply with all of WorkSafeBC’s requirements and make sure your workplace is a fair and happy one.  We can also help you avoid the many pitfalls that have developed around this area of the law. Don’t wait until someone makes a claim against your business – take action now and call Yeager Employment Law for a phone consultation.

By Julianne Yeager

People photo created by teksomolika - www.freepik.com

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