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Councils Commitment to a Safe and Respectful Workplace
February 20, 2018
North Cowichan Council is committed to upholding its legal obligations under the Workers Compensation Act and Regulations. Council wants all North Cowichan employees to go home safe and whole, physically and mentally, at the end of each work day and is committed to upholding North Cowichan's Respectful Workplace Policy, which applies to all employees and Councillors.
Under the Workers Compensation Act and Regulations, North Cowichan has a legal duty to identify, investigate, and eliminate or mitigate workplace hazards, which include bullying and harassment. If a bullying and harassment hazard is brought to an employer's attention, or the employer becomes aware of a bullying and harassment hazard, the employer must take steps to investigate and address the hazard. These steps are no different than those that are required to be taken for other safety hazards in the workplace, such as slips and falls, confined spaces, or exposure to sharps.
Failure to investigate and, if required, take steps to eliminate or mitigate a workplace hazard exposes North Cowichan to significant financial penalty under the Workers Compensation Act and Regulations. It also exposes North Cowichan to liabilities under employment and labour law, including labour arbitration and private lawsuits. Any penalty or award resulting from such a liability, and the process of defending the organization, can present serious costs to North Cowichan's taxpayers.
North Cowichan Council has taken steps to ensure that it has the trust and confidence of the public and its employees through the recently passed motion directing staff to prepare a Standards of Conduct and Oath of Office for Mayor and Council and through the direction that a Council remuneration bylaw be prepared as a means of addressing any potential breaches of the Council Standards of Conduct and Oath of Office, once adopted.
To meet its legal duty under WorkSafeBC, North Cowichan Council recently retained an independent, third-party investigator to investigate an allegation that a member of Council engaged in bullying and harassment toward a North Cowichan employee. Based on that investigation, Council confirmed that the Council member had engaged in bullying and harassment toward the employee, and, as required by WorkSafeBC, Council has determined how best to eliminate or mitigate the Council member's misconduct.
On February 19, 2018 Council resolved to enforce four acts of censure toward the Council member, who had rejected the findings of the independent, third-party investigator. The censure motion included corrective measures to support a behavior change and punitive measures to put the Council member on notice that the misconduct must stop and that Council does not condone bullying and harassment.
Council wishes to apologize publically to the North Cowichan employee and affirm that Council will not condone bullying and harassment of its employees.