Employer obligations in workplace harassment and violence

Employees deserve a safe place to work. Employers are obligated under the Occupational Health and Safety Act to make that happen. The law outlines the minimum requirements for addressing workplace harassment and violence. In particular, as of 2018, employers were required to provide a “psychologically safe” environment to workers.

Alberta employers need to make clear, in written form, what constitutes workplace harassment and violence. These definitions must include sexual and domestic violence. Employers must also develop separate plans to help prevent harassment and violence in the workplace, which require review at least every three years. The training programs that support these policies and plans are pivotal to the programs, and are reviewed during investigations as evidence of the steps the employer took to provide a safe work environment.

When incidents occur, employers are obligated to investigate them. It’s important that those investigations are thorough, fair and timely. Employers must then take the appropriate corrective action depending on the circumstances.

Employers can receive guidance regarding how to define both violence and harassment. Employees need to understand the differences, and the behaviors and actions that are prohibited. Everyone also needs to understand what happens when the rules are violated. This could help serve as a deterrent to keep people safe while at work — or at least put them on notice.

Most Alberta employers do their best to make sure that they provide a safe workplace for their employees. They strive to meet their obligations when it comes to preventing and addressing workplace harassment and violence. In doing so, they may require the advice and assistance of an experienced lawyer and investigator who can help make sure that a business complies with the requirements of the act and protects itself from potential repercussions from an incident.

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