New Regulations in Newfoundland and Labrador to Address Workplace Harassment & Violence

February 12, 2019

Newfoundland and Labrador has recently announced upcoming revisions to the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, 2012 (the “New Regulations”). The New Regulations follow similar changes made last year in New Brunswick and attempt to tackle the issues of workplace harassment and violence. New Brunswick’s regulations, initially scheduled to come into force last September, are now scheduled to take effect on April 1, 2019. A link to our earlier publication on the New Brunswick revisions, “New Occupational Health and Safety Regulations in New Brunswick: Addressing Workplace Harassment and Violence,” posted in May 2018, can be found on our website.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, effective January 1, 2020, the New Regulations mandate employers to develop, implement and maintain a written harassment prevention plan to address “workplace harassment”, defined as:

inappropriate vexatious conduct or comment by a person to a worker that the person knew or ought to have known would cause the worker to be humiliated, offended or intimidated.

An employer’s harassment prevention plan must set out the following procedures, among other things:

  • procedures for employees to report instances of harassment;
  • procedures to be followed after a complaint of workplace harassment is received and the manner in which a complaint is investigated; and
  • procedures regarding notification of results of investigations and any actions to be taken as a result of an investigation.

The New Regulations also mandate employers to investigate complaints of workplace harassment and allows for an occupational health and safety officer to order that an impartial third party investigate such workplace complaints, at the sole expense of an employer. Furthermore, employers must participate in training related to harassment prevention and provide training to employees on the issue and the employer’s harassment prevention plan.

The New Regulations address the reality that workplaces are not insulated from harassment, bullying and violence. WorkplaceNL recently released a statistic that reports of workplace violence in NL, which includes worker-on-worker violence, increased by 70% over the past 10 years. In what appears to be a response to this report, the definition of “violence” in the New Regulations has changed.  It is no longer limited to violence against a worker from someone other than a worker, and now includes co-workers as a possible perpetrator.  Accordingly, worker-on-worker violence is now captured in the New Regulations.

What This Means for Employers?

While many workplaces will already have a respectful workplace or harassment policy in place, all employers are advised to carefully consult the New Regulations and to seek advice well in advance of the January 1, 2020 deadline to ensure regulatory compliance. Failure to do so will not only suggest a lack of commitment to providing a harassment and violence-free workplace, it will leave employers open to prosecution under the province’s occupational health and safety legislation if they are unable to establish due diligence in seeking to prevent workplace harassment and violence.

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