Annette Harpell might have had a chance of winning her workplace bullying case in another province.
But Nova Scotia is the only province that doesn’t have legislation in some form outlawing bullying and psychological harassment in the workplace.
The NDP tabled that legislation at Province House on Friday and Harpell was there to witness it. The bill, calling for a simple amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety Act, needs the support of the Liberal government in order to become law, and that’s not a certainty.
“This has taken so long and has been very traumatic for me personally,” said Harpell. “I went through the Occupational Health and Safety process because I thought they could give me some measure of justice. I’ve lost this round, so the next round is for the government to change the law.”
The Antigonish resident was fired from her job at Lawtons Drug Store in 2018 after she endured daily – and eventually debilitating – harassment from a senior colleague. Her work superiors couldn’t put an end to the abuse and cut her loose. The Nova Scotia Labour Board dismissed her case this past June because psychological harassment is not part of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
As part of the decision, the director of occupational health and safety strongly suggested the “complex policy question should be left to the legislative process to resolve and not the board to impose.”
The amendments are a no-brainer said NDP Labour and Advanced Education critic Tammy Martin, who tabled the bill.
“No one should have to worry that they will lose their job because they experience bullying or harassment at work ,” said Martin. “Our province is behind the rest of the country when it comes to workplace harm of this kind and I hope all parties will support addressing this gap in the Act.”
Larry Haiven, a Saint Mary’s University business professor, also supports the proposed law and advocated for Harpell while she pursued her case before the labour board. Haiven’s a member of Equity Watch, an organization working to protect people’s rights at work.
“The law is supposed to protect employees from work hazards. The scientific literature shows that humiliation, harassment, intimidation and other forms of abuse are harmful,” said Haiven. “If a box fell on Ms. Harpell’s head, she would be covered. But because the injury had to do with psychological health, she was fired. Nova Scotia is half a century behind the times.”
Minister of Labour and Advanced Education Labi Kousoulis said his department is looking at the legislation and changing regulations in the act but offered no guarantees that the bill would become law. He said the challenge is getting the regulations right but said the issue is a big concern for his department.
“I don’t think anyone should be experiencing bullying or harassment in the workplace,” Kousoulis said. “It’s equivalent to physical violence, in some case it’s even worse.”
Haiven agreed and said the time for the government to act is now.
“Every single jurisdiction in Canada has this legislation now, except for Nova Scotia,” said Haiven. “(If) you are harassed at work you have no place to go, not in this province.”
Published at Fri, 04 Oct 2019 16:46:00 +0000