Why employers cannot, and should not, tolerate a boss who is verbally abusive towards staff

An angry and demonstrative boss. Photo: Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels

Having a verbally abusive boss can be a harrowing experience for any employee. In addition to the emotional and psychological toll, verbal abuse in the workplace can have legal consequences for employers in Canada. In this blog post, we will explore the dangers of a verbally abusive boss from a legal perspective in Canada.

Workplace Harassment

Verbal abuse can constitute workplace harassment, which is defined by the Canadian Human Rights Act as any unwanted conduct that is related to a prohibited ground of discrimination, including sex, race, and age. This can include verbal abuse that creates a hostile or intimidating work environment for the employee. Employers who engage in or condone workplace harassment can be held liable for damages and may be required to pay compensation to the affected employee.

Occupational Health and Safety

Verbal abuse can also be a workplace safety issue. Employers have a duty under occupational health and safety laws to provide a safe and healthy work environment for their employees. This includes protection from verbal abuse and other forms of workplace harassment. Failure to provide a safe and healthy work environment can result in significant penalties and fines.

Constructive Dismissal

Verbal abuse can also lead to constructive dismissal, which occurs when an employer fundamentally changes the terms of an employee’s employment contract without their agreement. This can include changes to job duties, compensation, and working conditions. If an employee feels forced to resign due to verbal abuse or other workplace harassment, they may be able to claim constructive dismissal and may be entitled to compensation.

Workers’ Compensation

Verbal abuse can also result in a workplace injury or illness, which may be covered under workers’ compensation laws. Employers have a duty to provide a safe and healthy work environment for their employees, and failure to do so can result in a workplace injury or illness. If an employee suffers a workplace injury or illness due to verbal abuse or other workplace harassment, they may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.

Legal Liability

Employers who engage in or condone verbal abuse in the workplace can be held legally liable for damages. This can include damages for emotional distress, loss of income, and other losses suffered by the employee. Employers may also be subject to punitive damages if their conduct is particularly egregious or if they acted with malice or intent to harm the employee.

Preventing Verbal Abuse in the Workplace

The best way to prevent verbal abuse in the workplace is to create a culture of respect and professionalism. This includes implementing policies and procedures to prevent workplace harassment, providing training to managers and employees on workplace harassment prevention, and taking immediate action when verbal abuse or other forms of workplace harassment occur. Employers should also be aware of their legal obligations under workplace harassment, occupational health and safety, and workers’ compensation laws and should take steps to comply with these laws.

Conclusion

Verbal abuse in the workplace can have serious legal consequences for employers in Canada. It can lead to claims of workplace harassment, constructive dismissal, and workers’ compensation, as well as legal liability for damages and fines. Employers must take steps to prevent workplace harassment and ensure a safe and healthy work environment for their employees. By creating a culture of respect and professionalism and complying with workplace harassment, occupational health and safety, and workers’ compensation laws, employers can avoid legal action and potential liability.