22 May Creating Inclusive Workplaces that Adhere to Ontario Employment Laws
In 2016, Ontario’s employment laws changed within the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) to provide protections for workers who are being harassed, sexually harassed or discriminated against.
These new guidelines set a standard to which employers must adhere in order to protect their employees from harassment due to:
- Sexual orientation
- Gender identity or expression
- Unwelcome sexual advance
OHSA Amendments to Prevent Discrimination and Harassment
Employers must set-up a workplace harassment program to effectively protect a worker’s rights in the event of a discrimination or harassment situation. These programs may include:
- Measures and procedures to report harassment not only to the employer, but also to another designated person if the alleged harasser is the employer.
- Establish measures by which confidentiality will be ensured.
- Establish a guideline for informing the harasser and complainant of corrective actions to be taken in writing.
In addition to this, the employer now must ensure that he or she investigates all workplace harassment claims, and to inform the harasser and complainant in writing of any corrective actions to be taken. This workplace policy is also mandated to be reviewed at least once a year to ensure that it takes appropriate measures to react to and prevent harassment or discrimination.
Human Rights in Ontario
It is also useful for employers to understand Human Rights policies in view of a more diverse workforce. The aim of the Ontario Human Rights Commission is to create a climate of inclusion and tolerance for each person. It is extremely important to follow the policies set by the code as an employer, because respect for Human Rights is the law. Organizations who discriminate may be held liable in court.
The general principles to be aware of are:
- An organization can be held responsible for discrimination even if it is done indirectly.
- Discrimination does not have to be intentional.
- Organizations have an obligation to be aware of human rights policies.
- Organizations who do not take steps to prevent or address human rights issues may be held liable.
Developing HR Policies and Procedures to Prevent Discrimination
In order for your employees and management to adhere to the guidelines set out in OHSA and in the Human Rights Code, it’s important to define what exactly discrimination and harassment is first.
In order to be compliant with OHSA, you will also need to create and implement a plan to prevent, review and address discrimination and harassment complaints. There are many benefits to implementing this, beyond your legal obligations. When employees feel safe and secure they are capable of their best work, and the tone in which your daily business is done is more professional.
However, putting a policy in place requires thorough knowledge of both OHSA and the Human Rights Code, along with the discipline to ensure your policy is adhered to.
Stewart Esten has a professional team of legal professionals who can help you navigate the complexities of comprehensive human resources policy that can educate and protect both you and your team. Learn more by contacting us.