As part of the sweeping changes to Alberta’s occupational health and safety legislation announced by the Alberta Government on November 27, 2017, when it tabled Bill 30: An Act to Protect the Health and Well-being of Working Albertans, protection from workplace harassment and violence will soon be expressly included in Alberta’s Occupational Health and Safety Act (“OHSA”).

Bill 30 looks to amend the OHSA and require employers and supervisors to ensure that no workers are subjected to or participate in harassment or violence at the work site. Similarly, workers will be required by the OHSA to refrain from causing or participating in harassment or violence. It will be an offence under the OHSA if employers, supervisors or workers do not comply with these obligations.

Bill 30 defines “harassment” to mean any single incident or repeated incidents of objectionable or unwelcome conduct, comment, bullying or action by a person that the person knows or ought reasonably to know will or would cause offence or humiliation to a worker, or adversely affects the worker’s health and safety, and includes:

(i) conduct, comment, bullying or action because of race, religious beliefs, colour, physical disability, mental disability, age, ancestry, place of origin, marital status, source of income, family status, gender, gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation, and

(ii) a sexual solicitation or advance,

but excludes any reasonable conduct of an employer or supervisor in respect of the management of workers or a work site.

Bill 30 defines “violence”, whether at a work site or work-related, to mean the threatened, attempted or actual conduct of a person that causes or is likely to cause physical or psychological injury or harm, and includes domestic or sexual violence.

Currently, the Occupational Health and Safety Code 2009, adopted by regulation to the OHSA, makes workplace violence a hazard and requires employers to create a policy and procedures respecting potential workplace violence, but does not expressly create an obligation to address harassment. However, adjudicators have recognized that employers are required to take reasonable steps to prevent workplace harassment through an employer’s obligation to provide a healthy and safe work environment under Section 2(1) of the OHSA. The proposed amendments in Bill 30 will expressly create an obligation not only on employers, but also on supervisors and workers to prevent harassment and violence.

If Bill 30 is approved, most of the changes to the OHSA will take effect June 1, 2018.

For further information on the changes to the Province’s occupation health and safety legislation see our previous article.