OFL STATEMENT May 31, 2010
(TORONTO) ─ June 2nd marks the anniversary of Theresa Vince’s death – a woman murdered at work by her boss after years of unrelenting sexual harassment in 1996. Nine years later, on November 12, 2005, Lori Dupont, a nurse at Hotel-Dieu Grace Hospital in Windsor was murdered at work by her ex-boyfriend. These tragedies were the catalyst for the call for legislative reform and creation of a public education campaign identifying workplace violence as a hazard.
After 14 years of activism, the Vince and Dupont families, Ontario’s labour and women movements have won anti-violence amendments to Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act. The amendments come into force on June 15, 2010.
The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) has long advocated for workplace legislation and comprehensive societal supports and actions to end and prevent the senseless violence women face at work, in the home and in the community.
1Studies show that the majority of working women will experience sexual harassment; however the harassment women experience is not solely limited to sexual harassment. Harassment on the basis of race, sexual orientation, disability, gender identity/expression and various other forms of personal harassment, compounded with harassment due to gender can make the workplace, and indeed society, dangerous and even lethal for women.
Violence and Harassment in the Workplace, Bill 168, has a number of serious omissions. However, the OFL sees these amendments as an important first step to addressing workplace violence. Bill 168, if properly enforced, will begin to protect workers against workplace violence and harassment. Workers will have the right to refuse work if they believe they are at risk due to violence. Employers must also take precautions to protect workers from domestic violence as it crosses into the workplace.
“Ontario unions will closely monitor enforcement of the new amendments and we are committed to strengthen anti-violence and harassment rights through collective bargaining” said Marie Kelly, OFL Secretary Treasurer. “The government must ensure that women know their workplace rights and that additional legislative action is taken to ensure no woman has to choose between her safety or her job.”
The Ontario McGuinty government must take further concrete actions to end workplace violence and harassment. Ontario women need legislative reform, strong – enforced – regulations and effective, timely enforcement of existing legislation.
- The Occupational Health & Safety Act now defines workplace violence as a hazard. We need strong regulations on training and consultation with workplace joint Health and Safety Committees.
- The Employment Standards Act has provisions that include job protection for 10 weeks of compassionate leave. The definition for compassionate leave should be expanded to cover abused women who need time to address legal issues, find housing, child care and time to heal.
- The Human Rights Code, Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Employment Standards Act need provisions guaranteeing abused women the right to workplace accommodation. Like expanded compassionate leave the right to alternative work, flexible hours and job transfers to a different work location should all be options for women dealing with violence.
- Launch a multi-language public education campaign to ensure Ontario workers know their workplace rights and where to go for enforcement. Violence is not part of any job description and should not be condoned in any workplace.
- Provide funding to women’s organizations to provide support for women who experience harassment and to develop community education programs.
- The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board policy on compensation for chronic stress is too restrictive. The policy must be expanded to cover workers who experience harassment, verbal and emotional abuse.
For Further Information: Marie Kelly
Ontario Federation of Labour
Carrol Anne Sceviour
Director of Human Rights – Womens Issues
Ontario Federation of Labour