Office harassment are unwelcome verbal or physical behavior. Harassment becomes unlawful when the conduct is severe or pervasive enough that a reasonable person would consider the office to be a toxic working environment. There are many legal forums to file harassment complaints. Will discuss some of the more common legal forums in this post.

A disclaimer: There’s no one plan fits all in employment law. If your claim is more complicate than usual, you may want to retain an experienced harassment lawyer. Your recovery may be reduced or the case may be dismissed, even, if you file it yourself, but didn’t do it properly.

 

Office Harassment Legal Forums:

 

Time Limit to File Complaint: 6 Months within the Incident

Advantage: Quick, Free

Disadvantage: Only available for certain type of cases.

Section 13 of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997 (“WSIA”) now provides for entitlement under the insurance plan for chronic and traumatic mental stress, where a worker is entitled to benefits under the insurance plan for chronic or traumatic mental stress arising out of and in the course of the worker’s employment. In these cases, the worker is entitled to WSIB benefits as if the mental stress were a personal injury by accident.

 

Workers with chronic mental stress with an accident date on or after January 1, 2018 must meet three conditions to be entitled to WSIB benefits under this policy:

  1. an appropriate regulated health professional, such as a family physician, provides a diagnosis based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders;

  2. the person has experienced a substantial work-related stressor(s), like workplace bullying or harassment; and

  3. the substantial work-related stressor(s) was the predominant cause of the appropriately diagnosed mental stress injury.


It means that, under the WSIA, an employee’s civil claim for constructive dismissal that is based on an allegation of workplace harassment may be statute barred if the harassment claim was filed at the Ontario Ministry of Labor, or to the Ontario Workers’ Health & Safety Board.

 

Click here to learn more about how to file a complaint to WSIB.

 

Time Limit to File Complaint: 12 Months within the Incident

Advantage: Quick, Free

Disadvantage: Only available for certain type of cases.

In Ontario, the Human Rights Code (The Code) expressly prohibits employment-related discrimination and harassment because of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, record of offences, marital status, family status or disability.

Do note that HRTO will only entertain claims related to the Human Rights Code violations. If your employer is picking on you or is being hostile and unfriendly towards you personally, while you might have a claim of harassment, HRTO is not the right forum for you as it’s not discrimination and harassment based on protected grounds, mentioned above.

Please click here to go to the Harassment and Discrimination page for a detailed discussion on this topic.

Click here to learn more about how to file a complaint to the HRTO.

 

Time Limit to File Complaint: 12 Months within the Incident

Advantage: Quick, Free

Disadvantage: Only available for certain type of cases.

​Workplace Harassment Complaints: Do note that this area is hugely overlap with WSIB and HRTO. If you have suffered chronic and traumatic mental stress as a result of office harassment, the right forum of choice is WSIB. If you have suffered from discrimination and harassment on protected ground, the right forum of choice is HRTO. If the employer has a personal grudge against you, or was picking on you personally, but was not discrimination based, then Ministry of Labour - Health and Safety could be your forum of choice. Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) applies to all workers, who are defined in Section 1 as a person who performs work or supplies services for monetary compensation. In another word, you DON'T need to be an employee to be protected by OHSA. You can submit a workplace harassment complaint if:​

  • you reported to your employer that you were being harassed at work and your employer did not make sure an investigation appropriate in the circumstances was conducted

  • your employer does not have a workplace harassment policy or program

  • your employer did not provide training on the policy and program

Click here to learn more about how to file a complaint to Ministry of Labour for a Workplace Harassment Complaint.

 

Time Limit to File Complaint: 2 years within the Incident

Advantage: Much higher damage rewards as compared to other forums, almost all types of cases can be filed to the Court.

Disadvantage: Slow & Costly, and if you lose, you have to pay for the legal fee of the other side.

​Filing an employment law case to Court is reserved for the most serious type of cases, where the damage awarded available in one of the statutory forums above simply aren’t enough. In other cases, your scenario simply won’t fit into any one of the other forums and you have no choice but resort the matter in Court. Yet, unfortunately, we have seen too many cases where the employee has no choice but to file the claim to Court because they have passed the deadline to file them in one of the respective statutory forum. You would commonly sue for wrongful dismissal after being terminated and add an office harassment component to your claim of wrongful dismissal.

Whether you case goes to the Small Claims Court or the Superior Court depends on the amount of damage that you are seeking. The maximum amount you can sue your employer at the Small Claims Court for a wrongful dismissal case in Ontario is $35,000. If the amount is any more than $35,000, than you will have to resort the matter in the Superior Court.

If you file a claim to the Small Claims Court and lose, you will have to pay for 15% of the legal cost of the other side. If you file a claim to the Superior Court and lose, you will have to pay for the legal fee of the other side, partially or fully, which could be extremely high.

Because of that, most cases filed to the Court system will settle at the mediation / settlement stage.

 

Click here to learn more about wrongful dismissal. Click here to learn more about constructive dismissal.

Click here to learn where to sue for a case of wrongful dismissal, and a case of office harassment and discrimination. Click here to learn where to sue for a case of constructive dismissal, and a case of office harassment and discrimination. Click here to learn about what to do if you get terminated in retaliation.

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