It is exceedingly important that businesses have clear policies and procedures in place to address workplace violence, which comply with the statutes that govern workplace violence – including the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act. Under this Act, employers are required by law to prepare a written policy that defines workplace violence, provides examples of it, sets out a clear program for filing internal complaints and investigating them, and describes any other steps the company will take in relation to workplace violence.
Companies may be required in appropriate circumstances to hire an external provider both to train their staff, and to investigate incidents of workplace violence as they occur. They are also required to provide protection from any workers with a history of violence, and to reasonably protect workers who are at risk of domestic violence.
Because workplace violence is considered a “safety hazard”, workers have a right to temporarily stop performing their duties until the issue is adequately addressed. Employers will be required to put a safety plan in place to ensure that any risks are limited to the extent legally required. In some cases, employers may also be expected to provide counseling services, if the workplace violence incident is of a sufficiently serious nature.
Where a company fails to comply with its legal obligations, it is at risk of substantial fines, extra attention from the Ministry of Labour, unhappy employees, reduced productivity, damages for wrongful or constructive dismissal, reinstatement of terminated employees (together with back-wages) and increased legal fees – among other things.
Author: Daniel Chodos, Whitten & Lublin