Workplace harassment and the employer’s duty to correct it
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Occupational health and safety legislation in Ontario protects workers from the risk and harm of harassment at work. Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) employers have a legal duty to guard against and correct workplace harassment no matter how small the team. 

Here are some things to keep in mind regarding workplace safety and the employer’s obligations. 

Harassment Can Go By Many Names

Bullying is harassment. Employees sometimes think that the form of harassment they are facing is less serious than the harassment that OHSA targets. But any euphemism for harassment, like bullying or mocking, doesn’t make it less harmful to workplace health and safety. Even lighthearted bullying can count as harassment under OHSA and the employer will have a duty to prevent and act on it. OHSA says that:
Continue Reading Workplace Harassment: the Employer’s Duty

new tort of internet harassment
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In Caplan v. Atas, 2021 ONSC 670 the Ontario Superior Court has recognized a new tort of internet harassment or “harassment in internet communications” to be precise. Notably, there is no tort – meaning you cannot sue someone – for just plain old harassment. 

The facts of the Caplan case giving rise to this new tort involved some extreme, wide-reaching and long-lived behaviour on the part of the defendant, Ms. Atas. The case involved multiple plaintiffs, all of who had been victims of Ms. Atas’ online harassment campaigns. A family member of one plaintiff found “80,000 unique search results attributable to Atas, related to some 3,747 online posts, on 77 different web sites, directed against 150 different victims.” 
Continue Reading New Tort of Internet Harassment

romance in the workplaceSpringLaw’s Lisa Stam joined ADP’s Jeff Livingstone, host of the Insights@Work podcast for a conversation about romance in the workplace.

As Jeff explains, “When professional and personal lives co-mingle, it’s only natural that romantic work relationships happen.  While merging romance and work might sound like an ideal situation, navigating office politics and HR policies present

Julie Payette and Rideau Hall's toxic workplace
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Rideau Hall is the latest workplace to become famous for its toxicity. The story of Julie Payette’s reign and downfall serves as an important reminder for workplaces. The law attempts to protect employees from violence and harassment in the workplace with both proactive and reactive requirements. However, when the offending behaviour comes from the very top, as was the case for the Rideau Hall employees, feelings of powerlessness are pervasive. 

The independent workplace report resulting from a review of the circumstances at Rideau Hall reported that 43 employees described the work environment as “hostile.” Out of 93 current and former employees interviewed, only 10 described the work environment in neutral or positive terms. 
Continue Reading Workplace Lessons from Rideau Hall

favourite posts to revisit
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What a wild ride 2020 has been. Our offices are closed this week and our team is (hopefully) enjoying a well-deserved vacation. While most of our 2020 blogging has been Covid-19 related, and while much of our blogging does tend to revolve around legal updates, occasionally a “fun” employment topic makes its way onto the blog. For today’s post, I thought I’d pick out a few of my all-time (definitely non-Covid-19) favourite posts to revisit.

Dress Code Rules: What’s wrong with saying “no hot pants”?


This blog attracted a lot of eyeballs – thank you Google Analytics! Dress codes are one of the sneaky ways that employers often still discriminate. I know it’s been awhile since we’ve all been to a Jack Astors or a Hooters,  but you should know that legally the female waitresses should be allowed to dress exactly like the men and vice versa.


Continue Reading Special Bonus Holiday Blog! Hilary’s 2020 Favourites

dress code rulesWith so much hot news swirling around, some may have missed the story of the Arctic research mission MOSAiC’s dress code. Apparently, women on board the ship were told not to dress in tight-fitting clothing, and specifically no leggings, no crop tops, no short shorts, no hot pants and “nothing too revealing.” The leader of the mission apparently felt that this was a “safety issue,” as “there are a lot of men on board this ship … and some of them are going to be on board this ship for months at a time.” Ah hem. 

It’s been reported that the dress code policy followed allegations of sexual harassment made by several women on the ship.


Continue Reading Dress Code Rules: What’s wrong with saying “no hot pants”?

workplace law advice for employers
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In these challenging times, in the midst of the pandemic, as workplaces re-open, pivot and change, we see the importance and immense value of having strategic employment and workplace law advice. Just a small allocation of thought space and time to being proactive could have changed the outcome of so many situations. We see it now in our firm in many ways. 

Having run a small business for over a decade, I can appreciate that employers are often triaging the urgent demand of finding solutions to client’s needs. Rarely did I have the time or opportunity to “smell the roses” let alone try to proactively anticipate the workplace law needs of my growing organization. However, I now see the critical importance of taking a proactive approach.
Continue Reading Workplace Law: It Pays To Be Proactive

workplace violence and harassment
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When it comes to workplace violence and prevention, the federal government has been playing catch up with the provinces. Starting in 2017, the feds have been working on amendments to the Canada Labour Code (CLC) to more fully address workplace violence and harassment. While Bill-65 – snappily named An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (harassment and violence), the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act and the Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1 – establishing the amendments was passed in 2018, the changes had not come into effect nor had a date for their coming into effect been announced. New regulations were announced on June 24, 2020, which provide employers with more details regarding what will be required of them and setting out an effective date of January 1, 2021, for the changes. There are also requirements that employers need to meet before January 1, 2021. More details can be found on the government site here.  
Continue Reading New Federal Anti-Workplace Violence and Harassment Requirements

internal vs external workplace investigations
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So you’ve received a harassment complaint from one employee about another employee. What do you do? Do you have to investigate?  Can you use your common sense and just discipline? Is the complaint clearly BS in the first place? What if the complaint is about a break-the-company level fraud by your CFO?

Workplace investigations are usually an unwelcome but necessary business diversion. Many employers would rather avoid them and will attempt, or seek counsel’s validation for, a quick and dirty alternative such as a quick-release termination of the alleged wrongdoer or relocation of the complainant. But these are not alternatives to investigating, are never the upfront solution and often fail to satisfy the legal obligation to properly investigate. These responses are more likely to expose an employer to greater liability.

A complaint of workplace misconduct needs to move quickly, and yet is no time for fast thinking. Employers should instead think carefully about the substance of the complaint, the impact on the involved parties and the business fallout if their response is the wrong one. 
Continue Reading Do I have to hire a super expensive external investigator? Maybe. Maybe not.

Terminating Employees for Inappropriate Behaviour
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In the wake of the killing of George Floyd and in the midst of protests and heightened awareness of anti-black racism across the world, two prominent Canadians have been “cancelled.”

Earlier this month Sasha Exeter, lifestyle blogger and influencer, called out Jessica Mulroney for “textbook white privilege.” Exeter explained, calling out Mulroney by name, that Mulroney took offence to her call to action for people with large public followings to use their platforms to address racial inequality and then proceeded to threaten Exeter and her brand.  Soon after Mulroney’s reality show, “I Do, Redo” had been cancelled by CTV, and Cityline, Good Morning America, Hudson’s Bay and apparently Meghan Markle, had all cut their ties with the star.


Continue Reading Cancel Culture at Work: Terminating Employees for Inappropriate Behaviour