The new deadline for filing a harassment complaint is two years

July 17th, 2018

Bill 176, An Act to amend the Act respecting labour standards and other legislative provisions mainly to facilitate family-work-balance (the “Act”), was adopted by the National Assembly on June 12, 2018. While several provisions of the Act will only enter into force at a later stage, others are already applicable as of the Act’s date of adoption.

Among the latter provisions is Section 42, which extends the deadline for filing a complaint of psychological harassment from 90 days to 2 years from the last incidence of the offending behaviour (see Section 123.7 of the Act respecting labour standards).

This Section is one of the last-minute amendments brought to the Bill. In fact, during the Parliamentary Commission’s session on June 5, 2018, an amendment to Section 123.7 of the Act respecting labour standards was proposed by the Minister responsible for Labor, Dominique Vien, to provide for an extension from 90 days to 6 months.

It is unclear for the moment why this deadline was ultimately extended to 2 years (the session’s full transcript will only be available on July 27, 2018, according to the National Assembly’s website), but it seems appropriate to infer that this legislative change echoes the strong media coverage, over the past several months, regarding public allegations of sexual misbehaviour in workplaces. Indeed, one should not forget that the new definition of psychological harassment under the Act also encompasses actions and gestures of a sexual nature (see Section 81.18 of the Act respecting labour standards).

It goes without saying that the extension of this deadline will have an impact on employers in Québec who will have to be more vigilant and thorough going forward with respect to documenting incidents and alerts on harassment, so as to be in a position to demonstrate, in the event of litigation, that appropriate measures were taken to put an end to the harassment situation.

It is worth noting in this respect that in accordance with the Act, as of January 1, 2019, employers in Québec will need to adopt and make available to their employees a psychological harassment prevention and complaint processing policy, which must include a section on behaviour that manifests itself in the form of verbal comments, actions and gestures of a sexual nature.

The BCF labour and employment law team is available to answer all questions you may have.