Recent enforcement action under Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act (“OHSA”) serves as a stark reminder of an employer’s obligation to implement workplace harassment and violence policies and programs in the workplace. A security company (the “Company”) was recently fined $70,000.00 for non-compliance with orders issued under OHSA.
After receiving information about a workplace injury in 2014, the Ministry of Labour conducted an inspection and discovered several instances of non-compliance with OHSA’s provisions in respect of workplace harassment and violence. The inspector issued the Company with ten orders, which required the Company to assess risks, develop policies, and implement programs aimed at preventing workplace violence and harassment and to provide employees with corresponding training. Despite these orders, when another inspection was completed several months later, it was found that the employer had not complied with seven of the ten orders.
Upon conducting an ex party hearing, a Justice of the Peace convicted the Company of seven instances of non-compliance and fined the Company $10,000.00 for each count, totalling $70,000.00. The court also imposed a 25 percent victim surcharge in accordance with the Provincial Offences Act.
This case highlights how important it is for employers to understand their responsibilities in addressing workplace violence and harassment. This includes obligations to create and implement policies in respect of violence and harassment and to develop measures and procedures for addressing complaints and conducting investigations. Employers should assess their policies accordingly as failure to comply can have costly consequences.