Canadian HR Reporter

May 2018 CAN

Canadian HR Reporter is the national journal of human resource management. It features the latest workplace news, HR best practices, employment law commentary and tools and tips for employers to get the most out of their workforce.

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CANADIAN HR REPORTER MAY 2018 2 NEWS Confronting domestic violence Family murder in Ontario highlights challenges for employers BY SARAH DOBSON IT is the kind of tragedy that happens far too often in Canada. A mother and her two teenage children were killed at their Ajax, Ont., home in March, allegedly by the woman's ex-boyfriend. On average, a woman is killed every six days in Canada by an in- timate partner, compared to every 22 days for men, according to Sta- tistics Canada. And yet in this instance, Kras- simira Pejcinovski's employer had an inkling something was wrong. Pejcinovski had been showing up to work looking tired and pale, and she told Sherry Robinson — owner of Spa Sedona — that her boy- friend had been violent with her. Robinson even started taking notes of the times she talked to Pejcinovski about the rocky rela- tionship, according to the Toronto Star, and encouraged Pejcinovski to change her locks when he moved out. In the end, it was Robinson herself who alerted police to the crime scene, after checking up on her absent employee at home. e tragic event serves as a reminder to employers and em- ployees alike of the perils of do- mestic violence, both in and out of the workplace. It also raises questions as to how exactly em- ployers should respond to these types of situations. Knowing when to act In this case, the employer obvi- ously cared about her employee, and she definitely wanted the woman to be safe. But she wasn't an expert in do- mestic violence, said Barb Mac- Quarrie, community director at the Centre for Research & Educa- tion on Violence Against Women & Children in the Faculty of Edu- cation at Western University in London, Ont. "She didn't maybe have all the resources… that would have helped her to actually formulate a safety plan and not just that but be able to, fi rst of all, identify the level of risk, identify the escalating risk and be able to communicate that to her employee," she said. "And I think that's where many, many times those of us who aren't experts — so whether we're talk- ing colleagues, co-workers, man- agers, supervisor, bosses — we have information but we're not certain of the signifi cance of that information." A big challenge is socialization, as people tend to err on the side of respecting somebody's pri- vacy, said MacQuarrie, "not on the side of asking questions and letting people know when we no- tice things that upset us or con- cern us. We've been socialized to mind our own business so that's a huge barrier that we have to con- front, to challenge." ere's also a desire to refrain from overreaction, which leads to further hesitation, she said. "It's out of a misguided sense of wanting to be respectful, and it also speaks to how stigmatized it still is to be a victim of domestic violence. It's hard to talk about this, and people still feel somehow that they're to blame or it makes them a lesser person. So we have to get over those ideas because that will make it easier for us to say, 'Of course we're going to talk about this, of course it's not your fault, of course you deserve help.'" "The more we can break through that and connect with people who are experiencing abuse, that in and of itself helps to create safety." Domestic violence aff ects the workplace every day, said Patty Coates, secretary-treasurer of the Ontario Federation of Labour in Toronto. "It impacts the person's pro- ductivity. It impacts their focus. It impacts other employees. So I think it's something that employ- ers really need to look at. ere might not be immediate danger, but there could often be that po- tential. And we've seen that, again and again and again." " ere is a responsibility, even though it may not look like it," she said. "That's where it's really im- portant that employers are there to help, because women need to know that they have that fi nan- cial backing, that their job is still secure because they can't leave those situations without that fi - nancial backing," said Coates. "And we know that in some cases, it's not just physical vio- lence, there's also the economic impact… as well as social. e only place that they might have that social interaction is at work — otherwise, they might be kept in a very tight bubble at home." A good employer is concerned about employees and recognizes what happens in their personal lives impacts their working lives, she said. " at said, they only have a legal requirement to do anything if they feel the threat is going to come to the workplace, so there's that line between moral obligation and le- gal obligation." Legal obligations On some levels, an employer can only do what an employee will allow, said Jamie Alyce Jurczak, a partner at Taylor McCaff rey in Winnipeg. "If an employee is telling you about a domestic violence situa- tion, for example, but isn't lead- ing the employer to believe that the workplace is going to pose a threat, for whatever reason, the employer can only do what they can do. ey certainly can't force an employee to go get help; they can't force an employee to leave their abusive partner — that would be certainly overstepping boundaries." But just because an employer may not have a legal obligation to intervene doesn't mean it should do nothing, said Jurczak. "I would suggest that increases liability for employers, not just with domestic violence but if there's a perceived risk of harass- ment or violence in the workplace that you ought reasonably to have known about, human rights laws would require you to take some positive obligation with re- spect to any human rights-based harassment. (And) under work- place safety and health legislation, you have a positive obligation to try to prevent violence in your workplace to the extent reason- ably practical." ere is a risk to employers in thinking this isn't their problem, she said. "How much they are to inter- fere and what steps they would have to take, what's reasonable in the circumstances (is debatable), but doing nothing where you ought to have knowledge is not something you can do anymore," said Jurczak. "Saying, 'It's at home and I have no place there,' that time has come and gone on certain levels, partic- ularly with more and more over- lap between work and home… it would be naive to think that this isn't entering the workplace." If there is a potential risk of violence, regulations require em- ployers to do a risk assessment, a hazard analysis, and to look at the steps needed to try and prevent a safety incident from happening, to do everything reasonably fore- seeable to try to protect against the risk, she said. "Make sure that the employee is very engaged in any discussions and potential solutions that are put in place in the workplace be- cause you certainly don't want... to make a situation for somebody worse. is is very delicate stuff ." In Ontario, domestic violence is a hazard under the Occupa- tional Health and Safety Act, so if a worker knows about that haz- ard and it's likely to happen in the workplace, he has to report that to a supervisor as a legal duty, said MacQuarrie. "For example, if somebody's showing up at work and asking questions and being aggressive, they have to report that." And if there's a protection order in place, the employer would be expected to take appropriate pre- cautions, such as alerting security, said Jurczak, "in a way that not only ensures people are safe but balances the privacy that's neces- sary for the employees involved." If there's an immediate or per- ceived threat of violence, such as a person acting erratically, people should not hesitate to call the po- lice — even if the person involved does not request that, she said. Educational benefi ts Air Georgian is now providing employees with educational assistance benefi ts. We spoke with John Tory of Air Georgian and Diana Godfrey of Fidelity Canada to fi nd out why this kind of benefi t makes sense for employers. Alberta Court of Appeal puts brakes on random drug and alcohol testing Suncor is once again stymied in its quest to implement a random drug testing program Preparing for legalization of recreational marijuana Despite misgivings by some, employers need to be prepared, especially when it comes to HR policies Constructive work environment versus constructive dismissal Toxic offi ce politics can bring legal risks, undesirable turnover British Columbia proposes new and extended leaves for caregivers, new moms, grieving parents Amendments can help ease worry, stress over job security: Minister U.K. threatens action against 1,500 fi rms over silence on gender pay gap Failure to report could lead to court proceedings, unlimited fi nes BLOGS BRIEFS NEWS FEATURED VIDEO BLOGS BRIEFS NEWS FEATURED VIDEO BLOGS BRIEFS NEWS FEATURED VIDEO Recent videos, stories and blogs posted on Check the website daily for updates from Canada and around the world. RECOMMEND > pg. 10 "It's really important that employers are there to help, because women need to know they have fi nancial backing." Watching for warning signs There are a variety of warning signs that may indicate an employee is in a potentially violent relationship, with the most obvious being a person actually stalking the victim or causing disruptions at work. "The other ways it can come in, and what sometimes employers don't recognize, is the phone call — an abusive partner calls every day to make sure they're actually at work… or they send abusive text messages," said Jamie Alyce Jurczak, a partner at Taylor McCaffrey in Winnipeg. Other signs include an employee's repeated lateness or increased absences, along with physical signs of abuse or mental health issues such as depression. Training can help people identify warning signs such as someone being more anxious or jumpy at work, or taking secretive phone calls, said Patty Coates, secretary-treasurer of the Ontario Federation of Labour in Toronto. "Often we say, after the fact, 'Oh you know, I thought that' or 'I saw those signs,' and (it's about) knowing that ahead of time, and then knowing how to handle that… what is that process, am I supposed to talk to the employee or go to a women's advocate or supervisor or HR?" More often, it's about having a conversation if things don't seem to be going well for an employee. "We don't want it to feel like a tattle-tale kind of environment; we want it to be a supportive thing, so those conversations are best had in the context of good training and having time to examine, explore the problem, but also how co-workers, supervisors, union reps, how they can all be part of the problem and the safety net," said Barb MacQuarrie, community director at the Centre for Research & Education on Violence Against Women & Children in the Faculty of Education at Western University in London, Ont. Culture and leadership are critical, she said. "Leadership needs to face this head-on — they need to be talking about this. If they are really clearly communicating that people who come forward will be supported, their jobs will be protected, that's going to make a huge difference."

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