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Safe workplaces vital to employee rights

It is not uncommon to think of bullying in the context of a high school locker room, where a young person might be victimized and harassed by peers. But bullying as a concept is now being called out in workplaces here in Ontario and across the nation. A physically and psychologically safe workplace is integral to employee rights in Canada, and while efforts are being made to standardize codes of behaviour, some employees still suffer bullying on the job. 

Bullying in a workplace capacity is defined as any form of physical, sexual or psychological violence imposed on an individual while at work. Bullying is typified by behaviour that leaves the target humiliated, intimidated or offended, regardless of the context in which the behaviour was intended. The Government of Canada estimates that some 40 percent of workers will experience bullying during an average week, and that of those, 45 percent will suffer lasting health-related effects as a result. 

Of course, bullying does not include reasonable management actions, up to and including termination of employment, so long as the situation warrants. But those who face bullying from peers and managers represent an extension of overhead costs to the company, not to mention facing their own personal issues. Employees who are bullied are far more likely to miss work due to illness brought on by stress, or to leave the job entirely. Clearly, bullying has negative effects on the entire work process. 

Great strides have been made over the years toward establishing and maintaining standards of employee rights, both here in Ontario and throughout the nation. But much work remains to be done, as evidenced by the statistics above. For employees who feel their concerns are not being adequately addressed by management, it is always possible to seek the support of an employment attorney who can help determine the best course of action to stop the harassment and, in some cases, seek reparation for physical and mental trauma associated with workplace bullying. 

Source:, "Moving towards bully-free workplaces", Karen Jackson, April 26, 2017

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