Workplace Violence and Harassment - what PEI businesses need to know

The government of Prince Edward Island has introduced new workplace harassment requirements which will come into effect on July 1st 2020. These requirements outline the rights and responsibilities of employers, workers, contractors, and all other parties present at the workplace. Every business has obligations under these new requirements.

All PEI workplaces need

  • a harassment prevention policy
  • a violence risk assessment, and 
  • a violence prevention policy* 

What’s the difference between violence and harassment?

Violence relates specifically to a physical threat or behaviour.

Harassment relates to inappropriate or offensive attitudes, words or behaviours.

Workplace Harassment

Harassment is any single or repeated occurrence of inappropriate conduct, comment, display, action or gesture, or incidents of bullying that the person knows or ought reasonably to know could have a harmful effect on the employee’s psychological or physical health and safety. 

Harassment includes conduct that is based on any personal characteristic such as, but not limited to, race, creed, religion, colour, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, pregnancy, marital status, family status, disability, physical size or weight, age, nationality, ancestry or place of origin. 

Harassment also includes any inappropriate sexual conduct that is known or ought reasonably to be known to the person responsible for the conduct to be unwelcome., sSuch as,conduct includes, but is not limited to: 

  • sexual solicitation or advances, 
  • sexually suggestive remarks, jokes, or gestures, 
  • circulating or sharing inappropriate images, or 
  • unwanted physical contact. 

Reasonable action taken by an employer or supervisor related to the management and direction of employees, such as performance reviews, work evaluation, and disciplinary measures taken for any valid reason, is not harassment. 

Workplace Harassment Prevention Policy: 

All PEI businesses must have a harassment prevention policy in place. All workers must be informed of the policy, and educated on harassment prevention, reporting and investigation. Businesses must ensure prompt and appropriate action is taken if there is an issue. 

Harassment prevention responsibilities of supervisors, managers, and employers include: 

  • Treating all employees, clients, suppliers, and contractors with respect 
  • Refusing to tolerate harassment - put a stop to it immediately 
  • Dealing with harassment allegations seriously, speedily, and confidentially
  • Reporting or investigating all complaints 
  • Ensuring the policy is readily available to workers; and 
  • Addressing workplace harassment by identifying the source and taking reasonable steps to remedy the effects of the harassment.

Harassment prevention responsibilities for workers include:

  • Treating other employees with respect 
  • Speaking up when harassment occurs 
  • Maintaining confidentiality 
  • Reporting harassment to the appropriate person as soon as possible; and
  • Cooperating in an investigation, if required.

CFIB members can contact Business Resources to get a complimentary PEI Harassment Prevention Policy that includes a sign off sheet, incident form and investigation template. 

Workplace Violence

“Violence” means the threatened, attempted or actual exercise of any physical force by a person other than a worker that can causes, or that causes, injury to a worker. It includes any threatening statement or behaviour that gives a worker reasonable cause to believe that they are at risk of injury. 

Violence Risk Assessment:

All employers shall must do a workplace a risk assessment to determine whether a risk of injury to workers from violence arising out of their employment exists. If a risk is identified, then  a violence prevention policy must be implemented.

The assessment should take into consideration

  • The history of violence at that workplace. 
  • A physical inspection of the workplace.
  • The history of violence at similar workplaces. 
  • Risk factors associated with violence

CFIB members can contact business resources for a complimentary copy of a Violence Assessment Checklist.

Violence Prevention Policy:

*A Violence Prevention Policy is needed if a risk of injury to a worker from violence in a workplace is identified by the risk assessment. 

An effective policy includes: 

  • A definition of workplace violence. 
  • A statement supporting any action that is intended to create a workplace environment free from violence and its consequences. 
  • The training programs available for prevention, control, and elimination of violence. 
  • A list of measures that will be taken to intervene and manage violent incidents. This will include the level of management responsible for the actions and follow up. 
  • A commitment to effectively communicate and implement the policy. 
  • A means to ensure confidentiality.

CFIB members can contact Business Resources for a copy of a PEI Violence Prevention Policy template which includes a sign off sheet, incident form and investigation template.

For help creating your harassment prevention plan, including template documents, please contact your CFIB Business Counsellor.

PEI Workers Compensation has more helpful information about Workplace Harassment and Workplace Violence on their website.