On November 7, 2017, the Honorable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labor, announced Bill C-65, the legislation proposed by the federal government to amend the Canada Labor Code , the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act and the Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1 . The purpose of Bill C-65 is to strengthen existing laws to prevent harassment and violence in federally regulated workplaces, including harassment and violence that are sexual in nature.
The announcement of Bill C-65 is timely. Against the backdrop of multiple allegations of harassment and high-profile sexual assault in the United States these days, this bill reminds us that sexual harassment and violence of any kind are unacceptable in the workplace. regulated by the federal government, including on Parliament Hill. The bill has three main thrusts:
- the prevention of harassment or violence incidents;
- the follow-up effectively to such incidents when they occur;
- the support to victims, survivors and employers in the process.
The approach proposed in Bill C-65 is designed to eliminate harassment and violence in federally regulated workplaces by prohibiting the full range of behaviors that are unacceptable at work and can lead to accidents and injuries. and illnesses, physical or psychological, related to the occupation of a job. The new legislation is intentionally broad and changes the wording of the Canada Labor Code to "accidents and diseases". The new wording aims to encompass all behaviors, from teasing and intimidation to sexual harassment and physical or sexual violence.
Bill C-65 will also require federally regulated employers to take concrete action to prevent and suppress workplace harassment and violence. For example, paragraph 125 (1) (c) of the Canada Labor Code now provides for an employer's obligation to investigate, record and report all accidents, all incidents of harassment, violence, all occupational diseases and all other hazardous occurrences of which he is aware. as opposed to accidents, occupational diseases and other situations involving more limited risks. In addition, the bill gives employees the opportunity to choose between various informal dispute resolution processes or to request the Minister to investigate third parties as provided in subsection 127.1 (8) of the Canada Labor Code. In fact, Bill C-65 gives the Minister the option of abandoning an investigation if the complaint has been properly dealt with in a procedure under federal statutes or a collective agreement, or if complaint is deemed "futile, frivolous or vexatious".
The employer's current obligation "to take the measures prescribed by the regulations to prevent and suppress violence in the workplace" is also extended as provided for in paragraph 125 (1) (z.16) of the Act. Canada Labor Code. Employers are now required to take the measures prescribed by the regulations "to prevent and suppress harassment and violence in the workplace, to respond to incidents of harassment and violence in the workplace and to provide support to employees affected by workplace harassment and violence ". The law does not require specific sanctions or results with respect to harassers or perpetrators of violent acts if the complaints against them are well-founded. On the other hand, employers will have to put into practice the recommendations made by the investigators responsible for assessing complaints. The employer who will not comply with the new legal obligations.
In addition, respect for privacy is receiving new and important attention in Bill C-65. Under the proposed amendments, federal employers and employees can not refrain from transmitting to an orientation committee, local committee or health and safety representative any "information" that may reveal the identity of a person. a person who reports an incident of harassment or violence, except with the consent of that person. It seems that the aim is to encourage potential victims to report their attacker and protect them from possible retaliation.
Bill C-65 is currently in first reading in the House of Commons. As the bill moves through the legislative enactment process, federally-regulated employers, both public and private, may wish to review their current policies and procedures to determine whether changes will be required in the event Bill was sanctioned. We will continue to follow the file and will keep you informed of its evolution.