If you are a manager or supervisor, a complaint of harassment brought to you by an employee can be a daunting challenge and a potential headache. You can hope that one never lands on your desk, but as the saying goes, “hope is not a plan.”
Employers are required by law to protect workers from the hazard of workplace harassment, including sexual harassment. In most jurisdictions, including Ontario, part of the required protection is an anti-harassment policy and program that includes a process to investigate complaints.
In Ontario, the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) requires employers to investigate allegations of workplace harassment. The process can be upsetting to the smooth functioning of a business. Sometimes the evidence will not support the claim. Other times, discipline or even termination can result. Inevitably, one party or the other (either the complainant or the respondent) will be less than happy with the outcome of the investigation.
“Workplace harassment” means engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct, against a worker in a workplace, that is known, or ought reasonably to be known, to be unwelcome. This includes comments or actions in the workplace which negatively affect working relationships or productivity or create a poisoned work environment.