Specific Legal Issues

July, 21 2022 Published by North Alberta Chapter - By HEIDI BESUIJEN, RMRF

Harassment and Workplace Violence – Do you need a plan?

With so much focus on the Condominium Property Act, it can be easy to overlook other statutes which can impact Alberta condominiums. Many condominium boards, managers and owners are aware of the applicability of privacy legislation but another area you may need to consider is employment law.

With so much focus on the Condominium Property Act, it can be easy to overlook other statutes which can impact Alberta condominiums. Many condominium boards, managers and owners are aware of the applicability of privacy legislation but another area you may need to consider is employment law.

Some condominium corporations are large enough to employ staff members – if only on a part time basis. If these staff are administered through a property manager then your property manager may have made the requisite arrangements not just for payroll and benefits but also for workplace policies.

A key obligation of employers is to protect the health and safety of their employees. The contents of that obligation vary from workplace to workplace but can include such things as providing for appropriate personal protective equipment and training, informing workers of threats to health and safety, and meeting all Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) and Employment Standards Code requirements.

Another aspect of this is addressing workplace harassment and violence. Employers in Alberta are required to implement a harassment prevention plan and a violence prevention plan for the workplace. Each plan must include a policy as well as prevention procedures. A policy sets out the expectations with regard to harassment and workplace violence. A procedure is the manner in which the employer and employees will act in order to implement the policy of no harassment or workplace violence.

There are obligations to have such plans in writing and making them readily available and the plans must also be reviewed at regular intervals (3 years or more often as necessary) as well as after an incident. There are also minimum obligations in terms of what the plans must include. As an example, harassment procedures must set out how harassment is reported.

A workplace violence procedure must include what an employee can do in a situation where they need immediate assistance.

Our firm recently worked with a condominium client to develop such plans after an OHS Officer concluded board members fit the definition of workers under the legislation and required that one be developed and provided to the OHS Officer for review. While the interpretation in this case might have been open to challenge, the most cost effective approach was to comply with the order.

While this application might be unique, it is certainly the case that some condominiums in Alberta have persons providing services to them that would clearly fit the relatively broad definition of worker and would also need to have such plans in place. The plans need, to some extent, to be unique to the realities (and “risks”) of each condominium corporation as well as the condominium context but there is no need for them to be overly complex or burdensome in size. Corporations are encouraged to at least give consideration to this matter and ask whether or not it requires further action from them.

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