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What should I do if someone at work is being violent or threatening me?
Clear language definitions to common legal terms.
Workplace violence is anything a person does because they want to hurt you or someone else at your job. It also includes:
- any time someone threatens to hurt another person, even if they don't act on it
- sexual violence or domestic violence, even if the person who is hurting you does not work with you, for example, if your partner visits you at work and hurts you, that is workplace violence
- violence done by customers, clients, visitors, your employer, your supervisor, or anyone else in your workplace
If the violence or threats happen at your job, it's workplace violence and your employer must try to help you.
Workplace violence policy
Your employer must take steps before something happens to protect you from violence at work.
To do this, your employer must have a policy about how to prevent violence and what they will do if violence happens.
When making the policy, they have to think about:
- the tasks you do
- problems that have happened at similar workplaces
- all of the people you deal with at your job and what they’re like
Your employer also has to think about the environment you work in, including:
- who will be there
- whether you work with the public
- the lighting in your space
- the air flow or ventilation
- how much of the space you can see
- whether you work alone
- whether you work in very hot or very cold temperatures
- machines or chemicals that are nearby
Your employer must follow their policy. They must do everything they reasonably can to protect you from violence at work.
Training about workplace violence
Your employer must give you training about:
- how to use safety procedures or equipment to keep yourself safe from violence
- how to get help quickly if someone is in danger
- how to report problems to your employer
- what your employer will do if there is a problem
Learn about your workplace policy on violence
Your employer must make sure that you and your co‑workers know what to do if there is violence in your workplace.
If your workplace has 6 or more regular workers, your employer must write their policy on workplace violence down and post it somewhere you can see it easily.
If you still have questions about what to do, ask your health and safety representative or Joint Health and Safety Committee or your supervisor.
Talk to someone in your workplace
If you think someone in your workplace is going to hurt you or somebody else, tell your supervisor or your employer. The law says that they have to protect you from violence at work.
Your workplace violence policy might have guidelines about what to do if you're in danger. Your employer must follow the policy, even if the person causing trouble is a customer or a client.
If you have a health and safety representative or a Joint Health and Safety Committee, you should talk to them. They can:
- give you information about health and safety issues in your workplace
- listen to your ideas for changes in the workplace and pass them on to your employer
- help you deal with problems related to violence in your workplace or help you to work with an inspector from the Ministry of Labour
If you have a union or trade association, you should also talk to them if there's violence or a safety problem in your workplace.
Remove yourself from danger
If someone is being violent in your workplace, you have the right to refuse to do your work. There is a special process you must follow to refuse work.
First you must tell your employer or supervisor why you think it’s not safe for you to do your work. They could suggest some changes to make it safer. If you think this will make things safe, you should return to work.
But if you still think you're not safe, tell them that you're using your right to refuse unsafe work that's in the Occupational Health and Safety Act or the Canada Labour Code.
The law says that your employer cannot:
- force you to do the work until it's safe
- punish you for not doing the work
You or your employer must also call the Ministry of Labour Health and Safety Contact Centre at 1-877-202-0008.
Think about calling the police
If you or someone else is in danger right now, you can call the police.
If someone assaults or threatens you at work, they have committed a crime. It does not matter whether they are a co-worker or a member of the public.
The police look into what happened and decide whether to charge the person. If you saw what happened, or if you called the police, they may want you to give a statement about this.
If someone in your workplace is hurt because of workplace violence, your employer must call for medical help or the police right away.
They may also need to contact the Ministry of Labour Health and Safety Contact Centre at 1-877-202-0008. The Ministry of Labour may send an investigator to your workplace.
Call the Ministry of Labour Health and Safety Contact Centre
If your employer does not have a policy on workplace violence, or if they're not following their policy, you can call the Ministry of Labour Safety Contact Centre at 1-877-202-0008.
They will send an investigator to look at the policy, if there is one, and talk to your employer.
The inspector can order your employer to:
- write a policy, if there isn't one
- create a new policy or make changes to the policy they have
- follow the policy
You can call the Ministry of Labour's Contact Centre at 1-877-202-0008 to make a complaint. You can call them any time. You don't have to talk to your supervisor about the problem first.
Your employer is not allowed to punish you for making a complaint. You don't have to tell the Ministry of Labour your name to make a complaint.