Français

With the recent media attention surrounding Brienne Allan’s (@ratmagnet) Instagram posts, the #metoo movement has hit hard at the craft brewing industry in the US and abroad.  Her compilation of stories shared by women in the industry detailed rampant misogyny, sexual harassment, and discrimination by many notable names in craft brewing.  The evolving story was picked up by Reddit.com and then reported on by several online sources including Eater.com and Vinepair.com.

Is there anything particularly unique to US craft brewing? Are the challenges different from other industries or here in Canada?  Not in my view, except perhaps that the culture has buried the issues a bit longer than in other industries. The industry is in the midst of a reckoning and employers who fail to protect their employees will have to deal with significant consequences.    

The fact is, across Canada, employers, in craft brewing and otherwise, are required to have workplace harassment prevention policies to address all kinds of harassment, including sexual harassment.  They are required to provide training on those policies to all staff.  They are required to investigate workplace harassment and sexual harassment complaints.  These are minimal requirements which have been in place in jurisdictions across Canada from as early as 2010.

The mandatory written program must set out:

  1. measures and procedures for means of reporting workplace harassment incidents, including alternative reporting in situations where the alleged harasser is the worker’s supervisor or manager;
  2. how incidents will be investigated, reports prepared and outcomes dealt with;
  3. how the worker and the alleged harasser will be informed of the results of the investigation and of any corrective action to be taken; and
  4. how information obtained regarding an incident will be protected, including procedures for disclosure and confidentiality and specifically, a provision that the information gathered about an incident will not be disclosed unless necessary for the investigation or corrective action.

Having a policy is only the first step; it has to be followed. 

In some jurisdictions, the Ministry of Labour receives complaints of non-compliance and will go so far as to ordering the employer to hire an external investigator to perform an investigation and prepare a report.   Fines can be levied against a company for any aspect of non-compliance. 

If you do not have a workplace harassment program, it is not too late to comply.

If you receive a complaint, even informally, you need to manage it in the appropriate manner.  This is not only required from a workplace culture perspective, but to minimize risks associated with potential claims. Failing to protect employees from workplace harassment, sexual harassment or any other form of harassment or discriminatory conduct, from a legal perspective, can result in claims for constructive dismissal, as well as human rights claims on any other protected ground. 

Our employment group at Koskie Minsky LLP assists employers with policy development, investigations, day to day workplace concerns, and all your other employment law needs.  For further information please contact Nancy Shapiro, Partner, nshapiro@kmlaw.ca