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Workplace Bullying in Ontario

What is Workplace Bullying in Ontario?

Employers in Ontario have a duty under the Occupational Health and Safety Act to maintain a safe working environment for their employees, which includes workplace bullying and harassment. Workplace bullying can typically be described as acts or verbal comments that have the potential of psychologically hurting or isolating an employee in the workplace. The comments, acts, or behaviour, typically intend to offend, degrade, intimidate, or humiliate an individual or group of people. While bullying usually happens where there is a pattern of such behaviour, it could also be one incident that is sufficient in establishing workplace bullying, particularly where the one incident has a lasting effect on the individual.

Although this type of behaviour is not always easily identified by employers, employers nonetheless must be diligent when it comes to managing bullying within their workplace.

Some examples of the behaviour that would constitute workplace bullying in Ontario includes:

  • Intimidation
  • Excluding or isolating someone socially
  • Establishing impossible deadlines which will set up the individual to fail
  • Withholding important information or providing false information for the individual to be misinformed
  • Making jokes that are offensive, either in person or electronically
  • Undermining a person’s work
  • Persistently criticizing a person
  • Belittling a person’s opinion

These are just several examples of what may constitute as workplace bullying in Ontario. There are many other instances in which an employee may be found to have been bullied. If you are unsure whether a particular behaviour may constitute as workplace bullying, be sure to contact an employment lawyer who would be able to assist you in making that determination.

What is not considered Workplace Bullying?

There may be times where workplace activities, changes, or comments, would not typically amount to workplace bullying. Some examples of what usually would not amount to workplace bullying includes:

  • Disciplinary actions which are based on valid concerns
  • Implementing health and safety measures
  • Expressing differences of opinion
  • Valid criticism
  • Offering constructive feedback, guidance, or advice about work related content or behaviour

What if an Employee Quits due to Workplace Bullying?

If an employee resigns due to bullying in the workplace, they may have a claim for constructive dismissal, as well as discrimination. When an employee resigns, they typically are not eligible for employment insurance (EI) benefits due to the fact that they voluntarily left their job. However, if constructive dismissal is established because of bullying, employees would then be eligible for EI benefits, where it is found that they were forced to resign.

A constructive dismissal claim following workplace bullying in Ontario typically stems from the fact that the employee resigned involuntarily, meaning they did not intend to resign on their own, and that something has “pushed” them to resign. Employees should ensure that any bullying acts or behaviour is reported to their employer, and that the behaviour is documented and addressed. If the employer fails to investigate or rectify the bullying behaviour, the employee may have a claim for constructive dismissal should they feel the need to resign.

Contact Us 

If you are an employer facing a constructive dismissal claim, or an employee who believes they’ve been constructively dismissed, our team of experienced workplace lawyers at Achkar Law can help. Contact us by phone toll-free at +1 (800) 771-7882 or email us at [email protected] and we would be happy to assist.

If you are a small or medium-sized company looking for full-service support with same day response, visit our CLO Program page for our strategic solutions.