Violence and Bullying Prevention


Canada Labour Code, Regulation XX, part II


20.2 In this Part, “work place violence” constitutes any action, conduct, threat or gesture of a person towards an employee in their work place that can reasonably be expected to cause harm, injury or illness to that employee.

Canada Labour Code, part III, section 247.1

Sexual harassment

any conduct, comment, gesture or contact of a sexual nature

a)       that is likely to cause offence or humiliation to any employee; or

b)       that might, on reasonable grounds, be perceived by that employee as placing a condition of a sexual nature on employment or on any opportunity for training or promotion.

Canadian Human Rights Act, part I, sections 3 (1-2), 7 and 14 (1(c) & 2)

Prohibited grounds of discrimination

3. (1) For all purposes of this Act, the prohibited grounds of discrimination are race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, disability and conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted or in respect of which a record suspension has been ordered.

(2) Where the ground of discrimination is pregnancy or child-birth, the discrimination shall be deemed to be on the ground of sex.


7. It is a discriminatory practice, directly or indirectly,

(a) to refuse to employ or continue to employ any individual, or

(b) in the course of employment, to differentiate adversely in relation to an employee,

on a prohibited ground of discrimination.


14. (1) It is a discriminatory practice,

(c) in matters related to employment,

to harass an individual on a prohibited ground of discrimination.

Sexual harassment

(2) Without limiting the generality of subsection (1), sexual harassment shall, for the purposes of that subsection, be deemed to be harassment on a prohibited ground of discrimination.



Abuse: To hurt or inflict damage on another person, either emotionally, physically or both.

Accident: An unplanned event that causes harm to people or damage to property.

Assault: Applying force intentionally to another person, directly or indirectly, without that person’s consent. Also when a person attempts or threatens to apply force.

Workplace bullying: Bullying is a form of harassment. Repeated, persistent aggressive behaviour between employees in or outside a workplace that escalates over time and leads to victimization of a person. It includes any inappropriate conduct or comments by a person toward a worker (that the person knew or reasonably ought to have known would cause that worker to be humiliated or intimidated). It excludes any reasonable action taken by an employer relating to the management of workers.

Discrimination based on a prohibited ground: is the unequal, unfair and differential treatment of individuals who are members of particular social groups that have been historically disadvantaged.  Discrimination may be based on race, nationality, ethnicity, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, religion, marital or family status, criminal conviction, or physical or psychiatric disability.  Discrimination may be overt differential treatment or It may also be systemic or institutionalized in policies, procedures and practices. If a behaviour or practice has a disproportionate, negative effect on a particular group, this is discrimination.    

Domestic violence: Any form of physical, sexual, emotional or psychological abuse, including financial control, stalking and harassment. It occurs between opposite or same-sex intimate partners, who may or may not be married, common law, or living together. It can also continue to happen after a relationship has ended.

Harassment: Act of engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct against a worker that is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome.

Harassment includes:

  1. verbal, physical or visual forms of harassment;
  2. behavior or expression that could offend any reasonable person;
  3. inappropriate conduct that may or may not be intentional;
  4. a series of conduct or comments that happens one time or over a period of time, if the incident is serious, egregious or constitutes a threat;
  5. incidents where the victim does not expressly object to the harassment;
  6. unwelcome comments or conduct which may or may not be directed at a specific person; and
  7. comments or conduct that ridicule or disparage a group that could cause humiliation, insult, apprehension or disruption that poisons the environment.

Harassment (psychological): Any vexatious behaviour in the form of repeated and hostile or unwanted conduct, verbal comments, actions or gestures that affects an employee’s dignity or psychological or physical integrity and that results in a harmful work environment for the employee.

Harassment (personal), also known as non-human rights harassment, is not limited to the “grounds” and is defined as  repeated conduct which is  hostile or unwanted, and  includes verbal comments, actions or gestures that affect a member’s’s dignity, psychological integrity or physical integrity, resulting in a harmful environment.

Harassment (human rights): Harassment based on human rights grounds or “prohibited grounds” listed in human rights legislation such as race, nationality, ethnicity, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, religion, marital or family status, criminal conviction, or physical or mental health related disability. Some provincial and territorial human rights legislations also include other grounds as “prohibited ground,” such as social status, source of income and political belief.

Harassment (sexual): Harassment of a sexual nature. It can include touching, comments, sexual jokes or unwanted sexual suggestions or advances.

Mobbing: A type of group behaviour by co-workers to exclude, punish or humiliate a targeted worker. It is best describes as group bullying.

Rudeness: Offensive or undignified behavior that is deemed to be socially unacceptable or inconsiderate. It does not constitute bullying unless it is aimed towards a target with the intent to victimize. 

Workplace violence: “Any action, conduct, threat or gesture of a person toward an employee in their workplace that can reasonably be expected to cause harm, injury or illness to that employee.” 

Supporting members

If you notice members are being bullied, reach out and support them.

  • Educate members on policies and procedures to deal with harassment, discrimination, violence and bullying.

Workplace violence prevention policy

The employer should develop and post a workplace violence prevention policy setting out the following obligations of the employer:

  1. To provide a safe, healthy and violence-free workplace;
  2. To dedicate sufficient attention, resources and time to address factors that contribute to workplace violence including, but not limited to: bullying, teasing, and abusive and other aggressive behavior;
  3. To communicate to its employees information about factors contributing to workplace violence;
  4. To assist employees exposed to workplace violence.

Most employers should also have a harassment policy.

Health and safety committees

It is important for locals to appoint members to their local health and safety committee who know the employer’s responsibilities under the health and safety legislation concerning violence prevention.

Grievances, complaints and claims

All workplace violence situations must be dealt with under the health and safety procedures of the labour code. However, there may be instances where grievances are also warranted since there are limited individual remedies under the health and safety process.  Your local can provide advice and guidance as well as representation.

(a)  Corrective measures grievance

Employees who have lost pay, leave and/or benefits because of violence in the workplace should file a grievance as soon as possible. The grievance statement will relate to the leave provisions in the collective agreement. For example, corrective measures could include - but are not limited to - reinstatement of pay, sick leave, vacation leave or compensatory leave, etc.

(b)  “No-discrimination” grievance

Harassment/violence based on a prohibited ground constitutes discrimination which is contrary to the no-discrimination article and/or harassment article in the collective agreement and the federal, provincial or territorial human rights act. As with all violations of the no-discrimination article, members should file a grievance within the prescribed timelines..

Prohibited grounds under the Canadian Human Rights Act are: race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, disability and conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted or in respect of which a record suspension has been ordered.  Gender identity has been included in some of the grounds listed since it is not a stand-alone ground.

(c)  Member against member

It may happen that the person accused of violence or bullying is a union member. The component or PSAC regional office can assist for representation.

(d) Human rights complaint

Where harassment/violence is linked to a prohibited ground under the human rights legislation, members may also file a complaint with the human rights commission or tribunal that covers their workplace. This should be done at the same time as filing a “No Discrimination” grievance and any recourse mechanism pursued under the Labour Code.  Note that when Bill C-4 will be fully implemented, most federal public service workers will be prevented from filing human rights complaints related to their employment.

(e) Worker’s compensation claim

Members who are victims of a violent incident related to their work should file a worker’s compensation claim (even if they did not take leave from work). This will protect them if they develop any physical or psychological problems later. You can help with the wording as well as the procedure and the appeal if the claim is denied (with assistance from your PSAC regional office).


If you are a victim of a violent incident, which includes harassment (“psychological harassment” in Quebec) or bullying, you can file a workers’ compensation claim.

In a July 2015 PSAC survey on violence in the workplace, less than 3% of victims of workplace violence said they had filed a workers’ compensation claim!

What is workers’ compensation?

Workers' compensation is a form of insurance providing wage replacement and medical benefits to employees injured in the course of employment.

All PSAC members are covered by the provincial or territorial compensation board in the province or territory in which they work (not based on where they live.

How do I file a claim?

When you see your doctor or health-care practitioner, you must advise them that the injury occurred at work.

You must fill out a claim form to the workers’ compensation board and send any relevant medical information.

Need help?

Ask a member of your local executive, your component or your PSAC regional office for assistance in the wording of your workers’ compensation claim.

Each province has a time period to file a claim so make sure that you file your claim within the timeframe.

What else do I need to know?

  • Your employer must also report any violent incident to the workers’ compensation board.
  • You are entitled to benefits for lost time due to injury or post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • While all PSAC members are covered under a provincial or territorial workers’ compensation board, some provinces have policies on how to deal with mental stress claims as a result of violence, harassment and bullying, while others do not.
  • If your claim is denied, e.g. because of lack of medical information or unclear wording on your claim, discuss your case with a union representative to see if you should appeal your denial. All provincial or territorial compensation boards have an appeal process with a strict deadline, so do not wait!

Your PSAC regional office can assist you and you can also visit your province’s WCB website for further information.

More than one out of three women have experienced domestic violence in their lifetime (37.6%), and 7% are currently victims of domestic violence, according to a survey by the Centre for Research and Education on Violence Against Women and Children (CREVAWC).

The 2013 survey was developed by the CREVAWC in collaboration with the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC). In total, 8,429 people completed the survey of over 60 questions. This is a huge response rate, and the results are considered to be highly credible.

According to the survey, men also experience this type of violence, but to a lesser degree. Aboriginal workers, persons with a disability and GLBT folks experience the highest rates of victimization.

Not surprisingly, domestic violence negatively affects a person’s work performance. Overall, 81.9% of domestic violence victims reported feeling distracted, tired or unwell.

In over half of all domestic violence cases (53.5%), the violence is not confined to the home but continues at work. Most often, it takes the form of abusive phone calls or text messages (40.6%). In 20.5% of cases, the victim was stalked or harassed near her workplace, and in 18.2% of the cases, the abuser physically came to the workplace. 

Not surprisingly, domestic violence negatively affects a person’s work performance. Overall, 81.9% of domestic violence victims reported feeling distracted, tired or unwell. Over a third of victims said that domestic violence affects their ability to get to work. Sadly, 8.5% of victims of domestic violence lost their jobs as a result of the violence they experience in the home.

The negative impact of domestic violence is far ranging also affecting co-workers, who can be stressed or concerned about the abusive situation.

Ontario and Manitoba have amended their Occupational Health and Safety legislation, and employers are now obliged to protect their workers from domestic violence in the workplace in those provinces.

Having just obtained the data on the ramifications of domestic violence at work, PSAC is working with the CLC to develop education programs and other strategies to better protect our members’ health and safety and human rights at work.

Workplace bullying

A 2012 Workplace Bullying survey of 552 full-time employed Canadians found the following:

  • 45% of respondents said they were bullied. Sources of bullying were: 24% coworker, 23% immediate boss, 17% higher manager, 17% external to company (e.g. customers)
  • Only one-third of workers reported the bullying to HR.
  • One-third of bullied workers said it caused them health problems.
  • 26% of bullied workers stopped the bullying by quitting their jobs.

Workplace harassment

  • A 2014 Queens University poll found that 23% of Canadians have experienced workplace harassment.
  • A 2014 Angus Reid survey reported than one quarter (28%) of Canadians have experienced sexual harassment in their place of work or at a work-related function (43% women and 12% men).

Federal public service:

  • According to the 2014 Public Service Employee Survey, 19% of federal government workers reported being the victim of harassment in the workplace.
  • One-quarter of those who experienced harassment took no action and only 7% filed a grievance or formal complaint.
  • The following sources of harassment were reported: individuals with authority over them: 63%; co-workers: 50%; members of the public: 9%; individuals working for them: 7%; individuals from other departments or agencies: 5%;     individuals for whom they have custodial responsibility (e.g. prison inmates): 4%.

Physical violence in the workplace

In 2007, Statistics Canada released a report called Criminal Victimization in the Workplace. Highlights from the report include the following:

  • Nearly one-fifth of all incidents of violent victimization, including physical assault, sexual assault and robbery, occurred in the victim's workplace
  • 71% of the workplace violent incidents were classified as physical assaults.
  • Men and women were equally likely to have reported experiencing workplace violence.
  • 27% of incidents involving male victims resulted in injuries, compared with 17% of those involving female victims.

Domestic violence

  • A 2013-14 University of Western Ontario – CLC survey reported that a third of women (33%) have experienced domestic violence.
  • Of that number, 81% stated that this affected negatively their work performance, 53% stated that at least one type of abusive behavior happened at or near the workplace and 38% stated it impacted their ability to get to work.  (CLC 2014 survey “Can work be safe when work isn’t?”).