October 4th, 2019

NDP proposes adding bullying and psychological harassment to OH&S Act

HALIFAX - The NDP Caucus will introduce legislation today to add bullying and psychological harassment to the Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) Act to provide people with better protections in the workplace. Nova Scotia is the only province that does not include psychological harassment under OH&S rules.

“No one should have to worry that they will lose their job because they experience bullying or harassment at work,” said Tammy Martin, NDP Labour and Advanced Education Spokesperson. “Our province is behind the rest of the country when it comes to workplace harm of this kind and I hope all parties will support addressing this gap in the Act.”

Annette Harpell was psychologically abused by a co-worker and was fired from her employment, but she lost her appeal before the Nova Scotia Labour Board because psychological harassment is not part of the Occupation Health and Safety Act.

“This has taken so long and has been very traumatic for me personally,” said Harpell. “I went through the Occupational Health and Safety process because I thought they could give me some measure of justice. I’ve lost this round, so the next round is for the government to change the law.”

Equity Watch, an organization which works to protect people’s rights at work, was involved with Harpell’s case.

“The law is supposed to protect employees from work hazards. The scientific literature shows that humiliation, harassment, intimidation and other forms of abuse are harmful,” said Larry Haiven, a member of Equity Watch and Professor Emeritus at Saint Mary’s University. “If a box fell on Ms. Harpell’s head, she would be covered. But because the injury had to do with psychological health, she was fired. Nova Scotia is half a century behind the times.”

Yesterday in Question Period, the Minister of Labour and Advanced Education said he would be “more than happy” to work with the NDP on this issue.

New Democrats are focused on proposing solutions to improve people’s access to mental health services. In addition to the changes to the Occupational Health and Safety Act, the NDP Caucus has proposed a Mental Health Bill of Rights, and are pushing for the government to adopt a policy of same-day/next-day appointments for people experiencing a mental health crisis.