Quebec’s Act respecting occupational health and safety (AOHS) promotes the mental and physical well-being of workers in the province. It sets out clear standards for workplace health and safety and ensures that employers and workers meet them by stating specific obligations for both of them respectively.
The act outlines requirements for the control of workplace hazards as well as how to go about and remedy workplace incidents. The main goal of the AOHS is to ensure that workers do not have to risk their health or safety in order to carry out their jobs.
The Government of Quebec adopted Bill 59 on September 30, 2021. The occupational health and safety regime in Quebec was modernized and now includes the protection of employees who are victims of family violence.
Section 51 of Quebec’s AOHS has included the obligation to prevent physical and psychological violence into the chapter on the employer’s general obligations since October 6, 2021. This includes spousal, family, or sexual violence.
Furthermore, the new paragraph 16 of section 51 of the Act respecting occupational health and safety states that if the employer is aware, or should reasonably be aware, that the worker is in a situation of spousal or family violence, they are required to take action.
An employer’s general obligation to prevent violence is stated in the AOHS, however, the specifics with respect to how the employer should prevent or take action against it are not defined.
A recent decision has confirmed the importance of the employer’s protection obligation for victims of family violence. However, the extent of an employer’s responsibility to protect the victims and the measures they should take were still not specified.
The decision, Trivium Avocats inc. v. Rochon, emphasized the obligation of an employer to take action when they know that an employee of theirs is in a situation of psychological family violence at work.
The employee was harassed and threatened by her son while she was at work. This prevented her from fulfilling her workplace obligations. Her employer tried to help her and after seeing the gravity of the situation, they applied for an injunction that prevented her son from coming to her workplace or contacting her.
In this case, the Superior Court issued a protection order and an injunction for three years.
While the obligation is unclear and general, it is vital that all employers protect their employees in difficult situations to the best of their abilities. No one should ever feel as though they are unsafe while they are at work. Occupational safety is of the utmost importance and all victims of family violence deserve to be protected by their employers when it is apparent at work.