Workplace Harassment: Responses that minimize harm to employees and employers

Issues
Recent cases have demonstrated the increasing willingness of courts and tribunals to award significant damages against employers who fail to respond to workplace harassment. As this upward trend continues, employers facing harassment allegations will seek to reduce any potential of liability by acting swiftly, but in doing so, they must also take care to uphold procedural fairness, limit workplace disruption, and respect the role of the union. In this session, experts will provide guidance on effective responses to workplace harassment that fulfill legal obligations and minimize harm to employees and employers.

To what extent and on what grounds can employers be held liable for workplace harassment committed by managers or employees?
What lessons can be learned from recent cases regarding employer liability for workplace harassment? What factors do courts and tribunals consider in determining the quantum of damages awarded against employers for workplace harassment?
What are an employer’s legal obligations with respect to preparing and maintaining workplace harassment policies, programs, or procedures?
What steps must an employer take once it becomes aware of an allegation of workplace harassment to comply with its legal obligations under provincial and federal legislation?
If it receives a credible complaint, must an employer conduct an investigation before disciplining or discharging an employee who has been accused of harassment?
What does procedural fairness require in the context of a harassment investigation?
What interim measures may be implemented while an investigation is ongoing? In what other ways might an investigation be tailored to minimize harm to the employees involved and disruption to the workplace?
If an investigation results in a finding of harassment, what factors should employers consider before taking disciplinary action? Is discipline always the best response to harassment?
What is the role of the union in a harassment investigation? Do employees being interviewed during an investigation have the right to union representation? What other types of support can unions provide to members who have been affected by workplace harassment?
What organizational factors increase the likelihood of workplace harassment? What steps can employers and unions take to address these factors and create a safer, more respectful work environment?