Workplace Bullying: Legal Options in Alberta
Bullying is insidious. While it commonly occurs on playgrounds, it is unfortunately just as common in boardrooms and offices. Bullying can leave victims traumatized, and devastated, with their confidence shattered. It seems likely that at some point in their career, many people will have to work with a bully. Bullies can be active: insulting, swearing, and belittling people and their work. Some times they make up complaints about the quality of work. They often work behind close doors, and do not always leave a written record of their misdeeds. Some are passive aggressive and use silence and avoidance as punishment. All of these things can lead to severe mental anguish and suffering for the victims.
So what are your options if you are bullied? There are thankfully a number of options available for dealing bullies through legal processes. If you find yourself in this situation, it is important to keep a careful record of events of bullying as they occur.
Legally, intensive bullying, particularly if it is reported to Human Resources or other decisionmakers and not stopped, can lead to what is known as constructive dismissal, meaning it as if you have been fired, and you can sue. Other damages such as aggravated and punitive damages can also be available. The Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta recently discussed this issue in the case of Gibb v Palliser Regional School Division No 26, 2020 ABQB 113 the court said at paragraph 88:
Cases which speak to the issue of aggravated and punitive damages in a toxic workplace generally involve circumstances where the employee has repeatedly complained about bullying, belittling, and demeaning behavior and the employer, once in receipt of such complaints, has done nothing to address the concerns resulting in the employee being subjected to repeated or persistent conduct: Elgert; Boucher; Galea v Wal-Mart Canada Corp, 2017 ONSC 245. If you wish to read that case it can be found here: https://www.canlii.org/en/ab/abqb/doc/2020/2020abqb113/2020abqb113.html?autocompleteStr=gibb.%20v%20pa&autocompletePos=1. An employment lawyer can assist you in suing if you have been bullied in the workplace.
Depending on the nature of the bullying, a complaint to the Alberta Human Rights Commission might be made, a complaint might be made to the Workers Compensation Board, or to the Occupational Health and Safety Board. In short, you are not without resources if you find yourself in the difficult situation of being bullied a work.
If you are being bullied at work please feel to contact us for legal advice in this matter: https://www.flodenward.com/contact-us.
The information contained in this article is not legal advice. No solicitor client relationship is formed through this article. The reader is encouraged to retain counsel for advice in these matters.