In the growing wake of the #MeToo movement, the Alberta government, consistent with other jurisdictions in Canada, has removed the traditional two-year limitation period applicable to sexual or domestic violence cases.
On May 4, 2017, the Alberta Legislature passed Bill 2: An Act to Remove Barriers for Survivors of Sexual and Domestic Violence, which can now be cited as An Act to Remove Barriers for Survivors of Sexual and Domestic Violence, SA 2017, c 7.
This Act amends the Alberta Limitations Act to clarify that there will be no limitation period for a person launching a civil claim related to sexual or domestic assault.
This will impact employers facing an increasing number of workplace complaints for sexual harassment, assault or discrimination. While certainly not automatic, employers may be exposed to vicarious liability for these workplace allegations depending on: the status and authority of the accused, the workplace relationship between the complainant and accused, the nature and location of the alleged assault, the existence and enforcement of workplace policies and affirmative steps taken to promote a safe and equitable workplace, and the employer’s response to any such complaint including an investigation and disciplinary or preventative measures that may be warranted.
As the limitation barrier has been lifted for civil claims relating to sexual assault, employers may be faced with aged claims involving former employees. This reinforces the importance of conducting thorough, fair and responsive investigations into employee complaints, as this creates a clear record of the issues that were raised, the information that was gathered, and the steps that were taken to respond to a complaint at a time when the employer has access to that evidence.