Workplace Harassment Lawyers Calgary

Are employers required to treat their employees with respect?

A fundamental implied term of any employment relationship is that the employer will treat the employee with civility, decency, respect, and dignity.

An employer who subjects an employee to harassment, bullying, abuse, or a toxic work environment that prevents the employee from doing their job has breached this implied term of employment. Harassment is a form of discrimination. Those that experience harassment in the workplace may be at an unfair disadvantage when it comes to their work environment and opportunities.

Employers can be liable for harassment for acts it directly committed or condoned but also in situations where it does not have actual knowledge of the harassment. In the latter case, the employer may still be vicariously liable for the harassment perpetrated by an employee.

What is considered harassing, abuse, or bullying in the employment context?

The Alberta Human Rights Commission defines harassment as “…when someone is subjected to unwelcome verbal or physical conduct.” It further provides examples of harassment which include:

  • Verbal or physical abuse, threats, derogatory remarks, jokes, innuendo or taunts about appearance or beliefs
  • Displaying pornographic, racist or offensive images
  • Unwelcome invitations or requests, either indirect or direct
  • Intimidation, leering or other objectionable gestures
  • Unwanted physical contact

Abusive behavior of the employer must make working conditions intolerable to be considered harassment, bullying or abuse.

Sometimes the Court will construe certain behaviour by the employer, including the assignment of inappropriate tasks or undermining their standing within the workplace, as deliberate attempts to cause the employee to resign.

This is not limited to abusive behaviour by the employer. Employers have a common law duty to provide a work atmosphere that is conducive to the wellbeing of its employees. Failure by an employer to prevent the harassment of an employee by co-workers is an obvious breach of this duty that may amount to a constructive dismissal.

The level of wrongful behaviour must be serious, not trivial. There must be evidence that an objective, reasonable bystander would support the conclusion of a poisoned workplace, sufficient to create a hostile or intolerable environment. Employers are allowed to be critical of their employee’s work, and to take disciplinary action when necessary. Not every arrogant or rude manager, or all workplace arguments will be found to rise to the level of constructive dismissal.

What is the consequence of harassment, abuse, or bullying in the employment context?

Harassment, bullying, abuse, or a toxic work environment can lead to a claim for constructive dismissal or a human rights complaint to the Alberta Human Rights Commission.

Hearing tribunals at the Alberta Human Rights Commission have a broader jurisdiction to award different remedies to the impacted employee than that available to the Court of Queen’s Bench. For example, the Alberta Human Rights Commission can order employers implement steps to prevent future harassment such as training programs, may order the dismissed employee reinstated to their original position or award compensation for psychological harm resulting from the harassment.

If you believe you are experiencing harassment, Cashion Legal specializes in workplace discrimination law and can review your case to ensure you are being treated fairly.

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