A security firm failed to show up to defend quasi-criminal, health and safety charges. Federal Force Protection Agency ("FFPA"), a company that provided security services for Oshawa City Hall, has been convicted of seven (7) counts of contravening the violence and harassment provisions contained in the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act (OSHA). FFPA received a substantial fine of $70,000, plus a 25% victim fine surcharge, for a total fine of $87,500.
The Ministry of Labour (MOL) was alerted to FFPA's failure to comply with the violence and harassment legislation after a worker was injured in 2014. It is not clear whether or not the worker was injured as a result of workplace violence. The Inspector who investigated issued several Orders to FFPA requiring compliance with the OHSA's violence and harassment provisions. The Orders required FFPA to develop policies and a program to address workplace violence and harassment and to conduct worker training. The Inspector returned to the workplace approximately 5 months after the Orders were issued. The Inspector determined that none of the Orders were complied with. FFPA was ultimately prosecuted. The court proceeding was conducted "ex parte" because FFPA did not attend. As a result, FFPA was convicted and fined in its absence.
This case is precedent setting as it's the first prosecution and "ex parte" trial involving Ontario's workplace violence and harassment laws. It also highlights the importance of developing a violence and harassment prevention program and that there does not necessarily have to be an "incident" for the MOL to prosecute. This is a lesson for all employers to review and assess their own compliance with the provisions in the OHSA related to workplace harassment and violence.