Harassment Wasn’t an ‘Unusual Danger’ Justifying Refusal under the OHS Laws

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A biologist for the Department of Environment complained of harassment by a co-worker to her manager. As a result, the co-worker was suspended three times. The biologist finally refused to work because of the continuing harassment. A Safety Officer investigated and concluded that the refusal was justified as harassment constituted an “unusual danger.” The Department appealed. The court noted that the OHS law in the territory doesn’t address workplace harassment or violence. So the Officer overstepped his authority. But the court observed that “the attitude to workplace harassment has changed over the years.” And although there are arguments to support the inclusion of workplace violence and harassment provisions in the OHS laws, it’s ultimately for the Legislature to decide whether to do so, explained the court [Nunavut (Minister of the Environment) v. WSCC, [2013] NUCJ 11 (CanLII), July 16, 2013].