On November 23, Québec’s Minister of Labour tabled Bill 42, An Act to prevent and fight psychological harassment and sexual violence in the workplace.

By amending several Québec laws, such as the Act respecting industrial accidents and occupational diseases (the AIAOD), the Act respecting labour standards (the ALS) the Act respecting occupational health and safety and the Labour Code, this Bill aims to prevent and fight psychological harassment and sexual violence in the workplace.

Here is a brief overview of the main measures proposed by this bill, which are primarily aimed at protecting workers in their workplace and in the exercise of their recourse to ensure this protection.

  • An Act respecting Labour Standards
    • Creation of protection against reprisals applicable to employees who report a situation of psychological harassment towards another employee or who collaborate in the processing of a report or complaint;
    • Creation of new obligations concerning the minimum content of policies for preventing and manage situations of psychological harassment;
    • Prohibition of amnesty clauses requiring or allowing the employer to disregard past disciplinary measures imposed for misconduct involving physical, psychological or sexual violence, when imposing new measures for misconduct of the same nature;
    • Creation of a specific provision authorizing the Administrative Labour Tribunal to award punitive damages to a victim of psychological harassment, even when the person is also suffering from an employment injury (as a result of the harassment) for which they are receiving compensation under the AIAOD, as a result of the same events.
  • Act respecting Occupational Health and Safety
    • Addition of a definition of sexual violence as “means any form of violence targeting sexuality or any other misconduct, including unwanted gestures, practices, comments, behaviours or attitudes with sexual connotations, whether they occur once or repeatedly, including violence relating to sexual and gender diversity”;
    • Giving the government the specific regulatory power to provide for any measures to be taken by an employer to prevent or put a stop to sexual violence.
  • Act respecting Industrial Accidents and Occupational Diseases
    • Creation of new presumptions of occupational injury to facilitate recognition of an employment injury resulting from sexual violence, other than in a strictly private context;
    • Extension of the time limit for filing a claim for employment injury resulting from sexual violence, to give more time to victims of such conduct (two years instead of six months) to exercise their right;
    • Creation of a special rule providing that, barring exceptions, the cost of benefits due by reason of injuries resulting from sexual violence will be imputed to employers in all units;
    • Creation of new measures to protect the confidentiality of employees’ medical records in the event of a contestation by the employer.
  • Labor Code
    • Creation of new requirement applicable to grievance arbitrators to complete a training on sexual violence, in order to hear any grievance relating to psychological harassment within the meaning of the ALS.

Over the next few months, this Bill will be studied in parliamentary committee and may therefore be subject to amendments. However, we can expect the measures it contains to have significant implications for employers, who will have to adapt their policies and practices accordingly. We will be keeping a close eye on the situation, and will keep you duly informed of relevant developments.