Canadian law aims to fight mind games

New provisions have been introduced to the Labour Standards Act in the
province of Quebec, Canada, with the aim of eliminating psychological
harassment from the workplace.

The provisions, which came into effect on 1 June, will have an impact on
more than 2.8 million unionised and non-unionised employees.

The Act defines psychological harassment as "any vexatious behaviour in
the form of repeated and hostile or unwanted conduct, verbal comments, actions
or gestures, that affects an employee’s dignity or psychological or physical
integrity and that results in a harmful work environment for the
employee."

The Act says it is the employer’s responsibility to take reasonable steps to
prevent and put a stop to psychological harassment, and that employers have 90
days to take action once notified of a problem by an employee.

If an employer does not rectify the problem, Quebec’s Labour Standards
Commission may refer cases to a tribunal, which could force the employer to pay
the employee punitive and moral damages, insist on the reinstatement of a
sacked employee, or simply ensure that disciplinary records are modified.

"The new provisions do not preclude the normal exercise of the employer’s
management rights," said Francine Martel-Vaillancourt, chairperson and
director-general of the commission. "In particular, their right to assign
tasks and impose disciplinary measures is not affected."

As many as 10 per cent of Quebec workers have been subjected to harmful
workplace bullying, intimidation or belittlement, according to the commission,
which developed the law to foster better workplace morale and reduce lost
productivity due to sick days.

By Joel Ceausu in Montreal

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