The Federal Court Endorses a Robust Approach to Protection against Workplace Violence

On November 13, 2014, in PSAC v Attorney General of Canada, 2014 FC 1066, the Federal Court considered Part XX of the Canada Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, which imposes a host of obligations on employers to prevent and respond to workplace violence. The Court’s decision affirmed the broad definition of workplace violence under the Regulations, and the mandatory obligations on employers to appoint an impartial person to investigate employee complaints.

The Court clearly held that the definition of workplace violence is broad enough to include harassing conduct that causes mental or psychological harm, stating that “to find otherwise would unduly restrict the definition of work place violence and not give a purposive construction to that definition.” The Court also held that the employer may not act unilaterally as an investigator of workplace violence and that, unless it is plain and obvious on the face of the complaint that it does not relate to workplace violence, the employer is under a mandatory duty to appoint an impartial person to investigate the complaint.

This judgment is an important gain for workers, because it grants access to the mechanisms under Part XX to seek redress for harassment in the workplace. The process under Part XX—particularly, the mandatory appointment of an impartial investigator—is now available for federally regulated workers that experience harassment.

The case was argued by Andrew Raven of our firm. You can read more about this case in on our blog.