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Bullying & harassment

Workplace bullying and harassment can take many forms, including verbal aggression, personal attacks, and other intimidating or humiliating behaviours. If workplace bullying and harassment is not addressed, it can lead to lost productivity, anxiety, and sometimes even suicidal thoughts or actions.

What is bullying and harassment?

A worker is bullied and harassed when someone takes an action that he or she knew or reasonably ought to have known would cause that worker to be humiliated or intimidated. When an employer or supervisor takes reasonable action to manage and direct workers, it is not bullying and harassment (see Prevention Policy D3-115-2 for more information).

Submitting complaints

If you are a worker and you have experienced or observed bullying and harassment in your workplace, you must report it to your employer. If your employer has not taken reasonable steps to address the incident, you can call the Prevention Information Line to contact an officer to discuss the incident prior to submitting a complaint to WorkSafeBC.

There is a difference between bullying and harassment and other types of incidents that can happen in the work environment. The following behaviours may not be bullying and harassment if they are approached in an appropriate manner:

  • Expressing differences of opinion
  • Offering constructive feedback, guidance, or advice about work-related behaviour and performance
  • Making a legitimate complaint about someone’s conduct through established procedures

Bullying and harassment should not be confused with a manager or supervisor exercising authority as part of his or her job. Examples of reasonable management action might include decisions relating to a worker's duties, workloads, deadlines, transfers, reorganizations, work instructions or feedback, work evaluation, performance management, or disciplinary actions.

Procedures for handling complaints

Employers must establish procedures stating how they will deal with bullying and harassment incidents and complaints in the workplace. Procedures must: ensure a reasonable response, aim to fully address the incident, and ensure future bullying and harassment is prevented or minimized.

Procedures must address the following:

  • How and when investigations will be conducted
  • What will be included in the investigation
  • The roles and responsibilities of employers, supervisors, workers, and others (such as investigators, witnesses, or union representatives)
  • Follow-up to the investigation (description of corrective actions, time frame, dealing with adverse symptoms, etc.)
  • Record-keeping requirements

In addition to establishing procedures, employers are responsible for ensuring they are followed.

Workers are expected to cooperate with investigators and provide any details of acts of bullying or harassment they have experienced or witnessed.

Related resources

Please see our resource tool kit for resources to help you prevent and address bullying and harassment, and to understand your legal duties.