Psychological harassment and sexual violence in the workplace Anticipated, necessary amendments

April 29, 2024

Image Psychological harassment and sexual violence in the workplace Anticipated, necessary amendments

Bill 42, An Act to prevent and fight psychological harassment and sexual violence in the workplace, received royal assent on March 27, leading to many changes. Important amendments to a number of Québec labour laws, designed to improve the prevention and handling of sexual violence in the workplace, came into effect when the bill became law.

Nearly half of all people (47%) report having witnessed or suffered inappropriate or discriminatory sexualized behaviour in the workplace. Almost twice as many women (25%) as men (13%) have been the victim of such behaviour.

The new law introduces expected, necessary legislative changes to improve victim confidence in mechanisms to assert their right to a work environment that respects their dignity, safety and health.

The APTS would have liked these changes to go further, as it argued in its recent brief2. But the changes nevertheless represent clear progress that we hope will enable major changes in mindset and healthier workplaces.

Here is an overview of the main changes, broken down in terms of the different laws they amend. Unless otherwise specified, they are already in effect.

Act respecting labour standards

1. The law establishes that the employer’s obligations regarding psychological harassment extend to anyone in a position to harass employees.

2. The policy to prevent and handle psychological harassment, including sexual harassment, must be updated and must explicitly include aspects indicated in the law, such as methods and techniques to identify, control and eliminate risks; the specific information and training programs that will be offered; the identity of the person appointed to handle complaints (in effect September 27, 2024); and measures to ensure confidentiality.

3. An employer may take into account disciplinary measures previously imposed on an employee for misconduct related to physical or psychological violence, including sexual violence, when imposing a disciplinary measure regarding new misconduct related to one of these forms of violence. This is intended to deter repeat offences.

Act respecting industrial accidents and occupational diseases

1. The deadline for filing a claim for an employment injury with the CNESST has gone from 6 months to 2 years, along with the deadline for a psychological harassment complaint.

2. Under a new presumption, a person who files a claim related to sexual violence on the part their employer, a manager, or a worker in the same establishment does not have to demonstrate that their injury or illness arose out of (or in the course of) their work. However, this presumption will apply only if the injury occurred within 3 months of the facts that led to the injury.

Act respecting occupational health and safety

1. A policy to prevent and handle psychological harassment must be included in the prevention program (or action plan) that is now required in all workplaces.

2. Risks related to sexual violence must be included in the psychosocial risks to be identified and analyzed in the prevention program or action plan, in order to eliminate these risks at the source.

Note: These two provisions will be effective when the Regulation respecting prevention and participation mechanisms in an establishment comes into force. This is expected to take place on October 1, 2025.

3. Within 2 years after Bill 42 comes into force, the CNESST must adopt a regulation defining the measures that employers must take to prevent or put an end to situations involving sexual violence.

Labour Code

Labour arbitrators who are called on to arbitrate grievances related to harassment will now be required to receive training on sexual violence. This should ensure that rulings are free of sexist prejudices and do not trivialize the situations that are being denounced.



[1] Based on data from a Statistics Canada study, conducted in 2020 and entitled “Workers’ experiences of inappropriate sexualized behaviours, sexual assault and gender-based discrimination in the Canadian provinces” (p. 8, 57).

[2] APTS. Des gains à saluer, des lacunes à corriger, brief presented as part of parliamentary consultations on Bill 42, An Act to prevent and fight psychological harassment and sexual violence in the workplace, January 2024 (in French).