LIABILITIES SURROUNDING CYBER-BULLYING IN THE WORKPLACE
By Melanie Warner
When talking about cyber-bullying, there is an immediate
link to the young, mainly because of
high-profile and tragic stories, such as those of
Rehteah Parsons and Amanda Todd. Both instances
lead to heartbreaking consequences, leaving Canadians with a
deep reminder of the ramifications associated with cyber-bullying.
However, cyber-bullying isn’t an issue solely related to teens; it’s
seeping into our workplaces.
A Pew Research Centre study from October 2014 states that
40 per cent of adult Internet users have personally experienced online
harassment, ranging from name-calling and embarrassment to
physical threats, stalking and sexual harassment.
A spike in the number of arbitration cases dealing with instances
of cyber-bullying is pointing towards the problem spilling
over into the workplace. For example, in Canada Post and CUPE,
a 2012 decision, a postal clerk was dismissed for just cause for
Facebook posts containing offensive, vulgar and threatening material
primarily directed at her work supervisors. The expectation is
we’ll see more of such cases and direction from arbitrators as this
issue becomes increasingly prevalent and publicized.
Amended in 2010, the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety
Act (OHSA) states that employers have an obligation to prevent
and address violence and harassment in the workplace, including
cyber-bullying regardless of where and when it occurs. Many employers
can feel reluctant to speak to employees about the darker
side of human behaviour, however it’s important they have violence
and harassment policies, programs and training in place to
avoid penalties. Failure to comply with the OHSA includes, for
individuals, a fine of up to $25,000 and/or imprisonment of up to
12 months and a fine of up to $500,000 for corporations.
Consequences are not only limited to OHSA penalties – employers
can also be sued for negligence and/or failure to maintain a
safe workplace and may also face human rights complaints if there
is failure to address violence or harassment directed at a person
alphaspirit / Shutterstock.com
WHAT SOMEONE MIGHT DISMISS AS A WORKPLACE
PRANK MIGHT ULTIMATELY RESULT IN RECEIVING A
CRIMINAL RECORD AND EVEN TIME IN PRISON.
HRPATODAY.CA ❚ JULY/AUGUST 2015 ❚ 37