Last month, I spoke to a group of senior human
resource professionals from the Waterloo Region on
workplace investigations. I opened my presentation by
mentioning that it was one year ago, Oct. 15, 2017, that
actress Alyssa Milano tweeted for the first time #MeToo, begin-ning
a social and political movement to address the prevalence of
sexual harassment and assault in our society. What followed was
a lot of discussion about the dramatic rise in workplace investiga-tions
and the prominent role they are playing in our workplaces.
With all the media attention surrounding this issue, it’s helpful
to go back to basics. While human rights legislation has provided
protections for workers from discrimination and harassment on
a variety of grounds (including gender/sex) and workplace inves-tigations
have occurred for years, some jurisdictions have passed
health and safety legislation requiring employers to establish
harassment/sexual harassment policies and complaint processes.
In some cases, jurisdicitons have enacted rules relating to work-place
While health and safety legislation has historically focused on
protecting the physical health and safety of workplaces, these new
laws are focused on creating workplaces that are also psycholog-ically
safe. As an example, in Ontario in 2008, the Occupational
Health and Safety Act (OHSA), was amended by Bill 168 (an act to
Prevent Workplace Violence and Harassment). This amendment
defined harassment in the workplace, required employers to have
policies and procedures to inform and train workers on harass-ment,
and to provide a process for individuals to come forward
In September 2016, Bill 132 (Sexual Violence and Harassment
Action Plan Act) resulted in further amendments to OHSA to
include workplace sexual harassment. The definition of sexual
harassment mirrors that of the Ontario Human Rights Code.
In addition, Bill 132 outlined new employer responsibilities to
make sure that:
■■ An investigation, appropriate in the circumstances, is conducted
into incidents and complaints of workplace harassment.
unitysphere / 123RF
A New Era for Investigations
WHAT’S HAPPENING IN THIS #METOO ERA?
By Melanie Reist
HRPROFESSIONALNOW.CA ❚ NOVEMBER 2018 ❚ 15