Change in Worker’s Compensation To Include Bullying

 Bill 14, the Workers’ Compensation Amendment Act, 2011, which became law on May 31, 2012, addresses bullying and harassment.  Starting in July, Work Safe claims for mental stress resulting from traumatic events in the workplace, a significant work-related stress or a cumulative series of significant work-related stress will be considered.

Work Safe Policy will put some limits on the stress claims. Stress must exceed the normal pressures in the workplace and involve threatening or abusive behaviour such as bullying or harassment.

Dealing with work place bullies takes some preparation. A single incident of abuse does not constitute enough to make a grievance of Work Safe claim stick. We need to document a pattern of abuse over a period of time. The Union recommends keeping a pocket notebook and every time there is an incident record the time, date, people involved, both directly and as witnesses and a brief description of the event. Once series of incidents are documented any grievance or claim will stand on its own merits.

What are examples of bullying?

While bullying is a form of aggression, the actions can be both obvious and subtle. It is important to note that the following is not a checklist, nor does it mention all forms of bullying. This list is included as a way of showing some of the ways bullying may happen in a workplace. Also remember that bullying is usually considered to be a pattern of behaviour where one or more incidents will help show that bullying is taking place.

Examples include:

  • spreading malicious rumours, gossip, or innuendo that is not true
  • excluding or isolating someone socially
  • intimidating a person
  • undermining or deliberately impeding a person’s work
  • physically abusing or threatening abuse
  • removing areas of responsibilities without cause
  • constantly changing work guidelines
  • establishing impossible deadlines that will set up the individual to fail
  • withholding necessary information or purposefully giving the wrong information
  • making jokes that are ‘obviously offensive’ by spoken word or e-mail
  • intruding on a person’s privacy by pestering, spying or stalking
  • assigning unreasonable duties or workload which are unfavourable to one person (in a way that creates unnecessary pressure)
  • underwork – creating a feeling of uselessness
  • yelling or using profanity
  • criticising a person persistently or constantly
  • belittling a person’s opinions
  • unwarranted (or undeserved) punishment
  • blocking applications for training, leave or promotion
  • tampering with a person’s personal belongings or work equipment.

It is sometimes hard to know if bullying is happening at the workplace. Many studies acknowledge that there is a “fine line” between strong management and bullying. Comments that are objective and are intended to provide constructive feedback are not usually considered bullying, but rather are intended to assist the employee with their work.

If you are not sure an action or statement could be considered bullying, you can use the “reasonable person” test. Would most people consider the action unacceptable?

If you are facing a bully at work, talk to your Shop Steward
and form a plan to document the behavior.
With some diligent note taking, bullying can be addressed.

 

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