Workplace Mental Health

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

Employee drug and alcohol testing in the workplace
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Last week, we discussed various options for accommodations that employers can consider for employees with substance dependence-related disabilities. We then delved into general rules around drug and alcohol testing of employees and briefly outlined some differences between drug and alcohol tests. In the last part of our series on substance addictions at work, we will touch on whether employers can conduct drug tests on specific employees, as well as random drug testing in the workplace. We’ll also cover some alternatives to drug and alcohol testing and highlight the human rights issues at play when it comes to the subject of employee substance use. 

Drug & Alcohol Testing of a Specific Employee

Due to concerns over potential intrusion on privacy and human rights issues, drug and alcohol testing is generally justified in Canada where employees are in safety-sensitive positions and one of the following situations applies:
Continue Reading Substance Addictions at Work: A Guide for Employers – Part 4/4

addiction accommodations at work
Photo by Jeff W on Unsplash

Last week, we discussed the employer’s duty to accommodate employees with disabilities, which includes drug and alcohol dependence. Employers have a duty to accommodate employees up to the point of undue hardship. This is a high bar!  So employers need to give a lot of thought to what they can possibly do before deciding it’s not possible to accommodate an employee.  Employers will normally have at least a few options for employee accommodations, ranging from leaves to addictions support programs, which we will discuss below. We will also cover drug and alcohol testing in this blog. 

Leaves

Very often, the accommodation that an employee suffering from an addiction requires is a leave. Many medical notes recommend this option; should an employer encounter such a note, the employer can put the employee on an unpaid leave with continuation of benefits. The fact that the leave is unpaid can sometimes incentivize employees to recover and return to work sooner rather than later. The timeline of these types of leaves can be very long, unless the doctor makes clear that the employee will never be able to do the job again. In these scenarios, the employer may have to accommodate the employee to work in another position within the company. 
Continue Reading Substance Addictions at Work: A Guide for Employers – Part 3/4

addiction accommodations at work
Photo by Jeff W on Unsplash

Last week, we discussed challenges that employers face when dealing with substance dependence and addictions challenges in the workplace. We ended off discussing the employer’s duty to inquire. 

An employer has a duty to inquire as to whether an employee has disability-related accommodation needs when the employer is aware or reasonably ought to be aware that there may be a relationship between a disability and the employee’s job performance. An employer who observes unusual or troubling behaviour has a duty to assess the situation and look into whether the employee’s behaviour may be the result of a disability before the employer imposes any sanctions on the employee. 

An employer has a duty to raise concerns with the employee and to advise the employee that accommodations may be possible if their behaviour is a result of a disability, for example. 
Continue Reading Substance Addictions at Work: A Guide for Employers – Part 2/4

Substance Addictions at Work
Photo by Jeff W on Unsplash

Many employers will at some point encounter drug and alcohol issues in the workplace. Under the Canadian Human Rights Act, substance dependence is considered a disability. An addiction to drugs or alcohol also constitutes a disability within the meaning of the Ontario Human Rights Code

An addiction should only become an issue for the employer, however, if it affects the employee’s work performance. Employers have a right to expect a certain level of performance and competency from their employees, but employees have a right to be accommodated for their disabilities to the point of undue hardship. 
Continue Reading Substance Addictions at Work: A Guide for Employers – Part 1/4

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

stressed out workplaceJoin SpringLaw’s Lisa Stam on Thursday, January 21st at Benchmark Benefits Solutions‘* first-ever free virtual workplace summit empowering Finance, HR, Wellness, and Community across Canada, to help us thrive in 2021.

Lisa will be discussing how to manage and protect a stressed-out workplace.

Thursday, January 21st, 12:00-2:00 pm

Click here to register today!

Expert-led

workplace violence and harassment
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

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.