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P.E.I. introduces legislation to tackle workplace harassment

Sonny Gallant
Workforce and Advanced Learning Minister Sonny Gallant says the new Eric Donovan Act will show employers what their responsibilities are when dealing with workplace harassment. - Stu Neatby

The province has introduced new legislation that it hopes will protect workers from workplace harassment and bullying.

The act is named after Eric Donovan, an Island resident who died in 2013 after experiencing workplace harassment.

Donovan had worked for 17 years with Queens County Residential Services, a non-profit that runs nine group homes in P.E.I. He died of a heart attack after experiencing workplace bullying.

Donovan’s wife, Lisa, has since been a dedicated advocate on the subject of workplace harassment, said Workforce and Advanced Learning Minister Sonny Gallant.

“Lisa was an advocate to bring something forward, to have harassment looked at in the workplace. She was very instrumental in bringing people together - myself, the leader of the opposition, union leaders, the (P.E.I.) federation of labour,” Gallant said.

The legislation would amend the Occupational Health and Safety Act to require employers to establish policies to prevent and investigate cases of workplace harassment. It also includes provisions to ensure confidentiality.

"What this will do, it will show employers what their responsibilities are,” Gallant said.

“It's there to protect employees and support the employer.”

The bullying and harassment experienced by Donovan was partly in relation to a workplace injury. After a lengthy legal battle carried out by Lisa Donovan, a 2016 Workers Compensation Board ruling found that a workplace accident could include bullying and harassment.

The new legislation will be debated during the fall sitting of the legislature.

Gallant also introduced two other acts related to workplace and post-secondary issues.

One bill will require post-secondary institutions on the Island to have in place sexual violence polices. The legislation comes after both UPEI and Holland College have established sexual harassment or sexual violence policies.

Another bill will extend the period for maternity leave from 11 to 13 weeks and will extend parental leave from 35 to 62 weeks.

The act will also lower the waiting period for a new employee to obtain sick leave from six months to three. It will also increase the maximum period of a leave of absence for providing compassionate care to family members from 8 weeks to 28 weeks.


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