June 16th - 2010

Real estate brokerages need a plan to ensure a safe and healthy workplace to protect workers

Bill 168, Ontario’s new workplace violence and harassment legislation, will require every real estate brokerage to take specific steps to comply with the new law which comes into effect on June 15, 2010.

Bill 168, Ontario’s new workplace violence and harassment legislation, will require every real estate brokerage to take specific steps to comply with the new law which comes into effect on June 15, 2010. Bill 168 amends the Occupational Health and Safety Act by adding definitions for violence and harassment in the workplace designed to further protect workers. “Workers”, by definition of the Act, includes Independent Contractors, as they supply services for monetary compensation.

In order to comply with Bill 168, real estate brokerages will need to prepare written workplace violence and harassment policies and post the policies in a conspicuous place. They will also need to develop and maintain programs to implement the policies; provide information and instruction to workers on the contents of the policy and any programs; and review the policies at least annually.

Workplace violence programs must include measures for immediate assistance where violence occurs; reporting procedures; investigative procedures; and remedies. As well, workplace harassment programs must include measures and procedures for workers to report incidents of workplace violence/harassment and set out how the employer will investigate and deal with incidents or complaints.

Bill 168 requires employers to be proactive in the preparation of risk assessments, the consideration of the potential for domestic violence, and the duty to disseminate personal information regarding those with a history of violent behaviour.

The provisions of the Act as amended by Bill 168 will be enforced by Ministry of Labour health and safety inspectors. These inspectors are granted broad powers to perform inspections, including the power to obtain a warrant to enter the premises and to order an inspection. An inspector can make an order instructing the employer to make any necessary changes to the workplace. Failure to comply with the Act or its regulations could result in a fine of up to $25,000 for an individual and/or up to 12 months imprisonment and a fine of up to $500,000 for a corporation.

Resources available
The Ministry of Labour has a number of free resources available including a guide that explains what every worker, supervisor, and employer needs to know about workplace violence and workplace harassment requirements in the Occupational Health and Safety Act. It describes everyone's rights, responsibilities and answers, in plain language, the questions that are most commonly asked about these requirements. To access the guide visit: http://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/hs/pdf/wpvh_gl.pdf

Other resources including a Fact Sheet called “Protecting workers from workplace violence and workplace harassment,” and a “Workplace Violence and Harassment Toolbox,” are also available from the Ministry at http://www.labour.gov.on.ca. The toolbox contains sample policies along with tools to assess specific risks, help recognize domestic violence in the workplace and develop a safety plan.

In addition, a Bill 168 information package prepared by the Mouradian Group Inc. is also available for purchase at a discounted rate through your local real estate board/association or OREA. Please contact your board, association or OREA for details and ordering information.

New definitions added to the Act
A 2004 Statistics Canada survey entitled Criminal Victimization in the Workplace found 17 per cent of violent incidents in Canada occur at the workplace. According to the Ministry of Labour website, this represents about 356,000 incidents of workplace violence in a 12-month period across Canada. Bill 168 amends the Occupational Health and Safety legislation to further protect workers by adding the following definitions:

Workplace harassment means engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct against a worker in a workplace that is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome.

Workplace violence means:

  • the exercise of physical force by a person against a worker, in a workplace, that causes or could cause physical injury to the worker,
  • an attempt to exercise physical force against a worker, in a workplace, that could cause physical injury to the worker,
  • a statement or behaviour that it is reasonable for a worker to interpret as a threat to exercise physical force against the worker, in a workplace, that could cause physical injury to the worker.

OREA has posted a summary of Bill 168 at www.orea.com under Government Relations - Issue Summaries. To see the full text of the new legislation visit http://www.ontla.on.ca, click on Bills and Lawmaking, then Past and Present, and select 39.1 in the drop down menu (select a Parliament) and then scroll down to Bill 168.

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For more information contact

Ontario Real Estate Association

Jean-Adrien Delicano

Manager, Media Relations

JeanAdrienD@orea.com

416-445-9910 ext. 246