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With Red Bull F1 team boss under investigation, how should employers handle harassment complaints?

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“Employers should typically look at the employee in question and the severity of the harassment or the harassing behaviour they engaged in, but also look at their work history, if this is part of a pattern events, if they were using their power deliberately to get something out of an employee and the relationship between the parties involved in the harassment,” he said.

Rules around reprisals for OHS complaints

However, legal protections for employees could result in further liabilities for employers, as most provinces have legislation that provides employees with several new avenues for addressing harassment complaints.

According to Pelkey, employers need to think about whether the constraints and restrictions put in place to keep an employee separated from the harasser make that employee feel safe, because feeling safe at work is an employee’s right under OHS legislation.

In New Brunswick, for example, under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, there are provisions that prohibit reprisals against employees who raise occupational health and safety issues in the workplace. This has been interpreted to include reprisals against employees who have filed harassment complaints, Pelkey said.

“The adjudicator in that case can’t make a decision on whether or not there was harassment, but what they can make a decision on is whether or not that employee was treated differently or poorly by the employer in some way because they made a complaint,” he said.

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