Bullying in the workplace is an issue that concerns everyone, especially employers. According to provincial legislation, employers in Alberta have an obligation to protect their employees from hazards in the workplace, including bullying and other forms of harassment and violence. Here are a few key considerations about workplace bullying for Alberta employers.
What is considered bullying?
Bullying involves a repeated pattern of negative behavior aimed at a specific person or group. It includes comments and/or behaviour that intend to humiliate, degrade, offend, or intimidate someone. Bullying can range from teasing to violence, and it can cause emotional and/or physical harm. Constructive work-related criticism, respectful disagreement, and reasonable management do not constitute bullying.
The Laws on Bullying in Alberta
While there is no specific Alberta law on bullying, the Occupational Health and Safety Act(“OHSA”) and the Alberta Human Rights Act (“AHRA”) cover the subject in relation to the workplace. OHS legislation requires employers to protect employees in the workplace, including protection from hazards like violence and harassment. The AHRA prohibits harassment and discrimination on the basis of several protected grounds.
Employers are required to comply with these laws by preventing and addressing workplace bullying. If they fail to do so, employers open themselves up to the risk of law suits from affected employees and may face serious financial penalties. Specifically, the OHSA requires employers to:
- define workplace harassment and violence in all forms;
- investigate incidents of violence and harassment and take corrective action;
- develop separate violence and harassment prevention policies and plans and review such documents at least once every 3 years; and
- advise employees of treatment options if harmed by violence or harassment.
Workplace policies and programs
It is crucial for employers to demonstrate that violence, bullying and other forms of harassment are not acceptable in their workplace. Written harassment and violence policies and plans are important for employers to prohibit unwanted behaviour and set expectations regarding how such behaviour will be treated.
Need help addressing bullying in your workplace?
Get advice from our HR experts on how to deal with workplace bullying in a compliant manner. We can help you create a policy on harassment and violence, or update an existing one, in order to prevent incidents of bullying in your workplace. Call us today at: 1 (888) 795-1242