Bullying in the Workplace

Bullying is seldom out of the headlines these days.  In one of my last articles, I discussed new cyberbullying legislation.  In this article we will take a look at the new provisions of the Workers’ Compensation Act.  They give workers the ability to make a claim where harassment and bullying have caused a mental disorder.  The new provisions address harassment and bullying from other workers or from employers.

Harassment and bullying are described as follows:

  1. Any inappropriate conduct or comment by a person towards a worker that the person knows or reasonably ought to have known would cause that worker to be humiliated or intimidated; but,
  2. Excludes any reasonable action taken by an employer or supervisor relating to the management and direction of workers or the place of employment.

It is no defense to say “I was only joking”.  A person cannot excuse their behavior simply by saying he or she did not intend it to be humiliating or intimidating.

A mental disorder is described as follows:

*  Predominantly caused by a significant work-related stressor, including bullying or harassment, or a cumulative series of significant work-related stressors, arising out of and in the course of the worker’s employment and

*  Is diagnosed by a psychiatrist or psychologist as a mental or physical condition that is described in the most recent American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders at the time of the diagnosis.

Bullying is not just a schoolyard issue and it is not something that only happens to children.  Bullying and harassment in the workplace are already responsible for high turnover, high absenteeism, sick days, stress leave, short term and long term disability claims, constructive dismissal lawsuits and human rights complaints.  Now we can add worker’s compensation claims.

Here’s the part that is exciting!  The legislative changes at WorkSafeBC come with resources for companies to address workplace bullying and harassment at the best time – before it starts.  The Toolkit summarizes all of the resources available to identify bullying and harassment; and to develop policies and procedures for reporting and investigating.   The Toolkit contains fact sheets, draft procedures and even animated videos that role-play various scenarios such as “When the employer is the bully” and posters for the workplace.

All of WorkSafeBC’s resources can be found at www.worksafebc.com/bullying

A detailed paper describing the new legislation can be found on our website at pihl.ca/blog/  entitled “Bill 14 and its Impact on Bullying”.



The information provided above is for educational purposes only. This information is not intended to replace the advice of a lawyer or address specific situations. Your personal situation should be discussed with a lawyer. If you have any questions or concerns, contact a legal professional.

By , On , In Employment Law