Governor General Julie Payette announced on Thursday that she would be stepping down following reports of workplace harassment within the Office of the Governor-General. Payette faced several rumors of bullying and harassment throughout her brief tenure, which came to a head in July 2020 after a series of employee-complaints sparked an investigation by the Office of the Privy Council. Although the investigation report has not been publicly released, Payette’s resignation is an ominous sign.

Payette’s resignation underscores the importance of employers following the correct protocol for investigating workplace harassment complaints, with the underlying message that no employee should be above reproach. It is critical that employers are aware of their obligations under occupational health and safety legislation to take prompt action following a harassment complaint.

Employers are required by law to implement, disseminate, and periodically review harassment policies that explain:

  • The measures and procedures for workers to report workplace harassment;
  • The measures and procedures for workers to report workplace harassment to a person other than the employer or supervisor, if the employer or supervisor is the alleged harasser;
  • How incidents or complaints of workplace harassment will be investigated and dealt with;
  • How information obtained about an incident or complaint of workplace harassment, including identifying information about any individuals involved, will be kept private except as necessary to conduct the investigation and mete out discipline; and
  • How complainants and the accused will be informed of the results of the investigation and of any corrective action that has been taken or that will be taken.

Equally important is an employer’s obligation to protect employees from reprisal for making a harassment complaint. Employees must be informed that they cannot be fired, threatened, suspended, or otherwise disciplined for exercising or asserting their right to a harassment-free workplace.

To better understand your workplace rights and explore the viability of a claim like that of Payette’s resignation during these unprecedented times, we encourage employees and employers to seek legal advice. We at Whitten & Lublin are happy to provide insight and advice into your specific circumstances. If you are looking for employment lawyers and would like more information about what Whitten & Lublin can do for you, please contact us online or by phone at (416) 640-2667 today.

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