Harassment isn’t part of the job!
If you have a tenant or condominium unit owner who repeatedly insults, threatens and/or intimidates staff via e-mail or otherwise, you have a legal obligation to bring it to an end.
Staff who are the targets of a tenant or unit owner’s abuse are workers and the conduct likely falls within the ambit of workplace harassment. The Occupational Health and Safety Act, 1990 (“OHSA”) defines workplace harassment as “engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct against a worker in a workplace that is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome”.
The changes made to the OHSA in September of last year impose a legal duty on an employer to implement and enforce anti-harassment policies and to investigate and protect workers from workplace harassment.
Where housing is involved, there are further obligations under the Condominium Act to ensure compliance with rules, policies, and by-laws and there may be obligations under the Residential Tenancies Act, 2006 depending on who is impacted by the offending behavior.
In a recent decision of the Superior Court, Justice Morgan found that a unit owner had offended the condominiums rules and the OHSA and ordered the unit owner to cease and desist from uncivil or illegal conduct and to refrain from verbally or in writing abusing, harassing, threatening, or intimidating any employee or representative of the condominium corporation.
If you are facing a similar situation at one of your properties, the following steps are recommended:
1. Consult your anti-harassment policies (which you must have in place) and any other applicable rules, policies, and by-laws (in the case of a condominium);
2. Follow any procedures that are outlined in such policies;
3. Where it is necessary to bring the conduct to an end or it is otherwise determined that immediate legal action must be taken, consider your options for pursuing an application at the Landlord and Tenant Board or the Court.
An employer can be held liable for failing to act promptly and in accordance with statutory obligations to remedy a case of workplace harassment.