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Employment law: Harassment and bullying no longer in the shadows

The #MeToo movement brought workplace harassment and bullying to the attention of many. Safety professionals across Canada, including British Columbia, have revealed that bullying and harassment remain some of the most significant workplace hazards. WorkSafeBC was the first to make policy changes in 2012, by which harassment in the workplace became a recognized occupational injury that could cause compensable mental trauma.

In British Columbia, harassment and bullying is regarded as an occupational hazard. Employers are mandated to take reasonable steps to prevent it, along with workplace violence, and failure to protect workers is an offence. Specific procedures must be in place to deal with prevention, reporting and investigations into incidents. Supervisors and employers must respond appropriately to any reports filed by victims of these transgressions.

However, dealing with harassment is challenging because it involves the emotions and perceptions of the victim. While typical workplace hazards involve physical conditions caused by apparent or obvious dangers, the emotional response and harm caused by harassment are often hidden. Employers can identify physical hazards and take steps to mitigate or eliminate them, but bullies are often skillful and have subtle ways of harassing other workers.

Some supervisors and employers simply lack the skills to approach bullying and harassment in the workplace appropriately. Victims whose complaints are not adequately addressed can consult with an experienced British Columbia employment law lawyer. With the support and guidance of legal counsel, issues might be resolved internally or dealt with in other forums.

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