Two recent amendments to the Workers’ Compensation Act and Regulations force B.C. employers to take bullying and harassment seriously. In 2012, the definition of a compensable mental disorder was changed to allow workers to claim workers’ compensation benefits if they become disabled due to serious workplace bullying or harassment. As of November 1, 2013, employers must implement bullying and harassment policies and training.
What kinds of behaviour will qualify as prohibited bullying and harassment remains to be seen. The definition covers conduct both of managers and co-workers, but clearly excludes “reasonable” performance management and discipline. The Regulations define “bullying and harassment” as “any inappropriate conduct or comment … that the person knew or ought to have known would cause the worker to be intimated or humiliated.” Early decisions from WorkSafe BC indicate that only sustained severe abuse will qualify. Several accepted claims involved explicit or implicit threats of violence.
In order to proactively prevent bullying and harassment, employers must, by November 1, 2013:
- Implement a policy;
- Train workers and managers on the policy; and
- Create a complaint and complaint resolution procedure.
Most employers already have policies prohibiting harassment, such as sexual harassment, based on grounds prohibited by the Human Rights Code. These policies need to be amended to cover bullying and harassment unrelated to Human Rights Code grounds. They also need to provide updated training on the their new policy, ideally as part of broader training on all prohibited forms of harassment