Employers legally responsible for protecting their employees during G20 summit

Many GTA employers don’t realize that they are legally responsible for protecting their employees from G-20 protestors and activists. With a growing number of incidents in the downtown core, including the occupation of businesses, street protests and isolated cases of vandalism, employers can face large fines and – in extreme cases – jail time for not providing sufficient protection against violence and harassment in the workplace.

"Most employers are focused on the logistics side of the issue: getting around town, moving products and getting employees into work on time," says Soma Ray-Ellis, a GTA lawyer and expert in employment law and human resources issues. "But many don’t know that they are also responsible for protecting their employees from harassment and violence during the Summit."

As of June 15, 2010, all Ontario employers with 5 or more employees are subject to Bill 168, which requires employers to assess and respond to potential sources of violence and harassment in the workplace. The Bill provides for large fines for companies (up to $500,000 per charge) and/or up to 12 month jail sentences for individuals who have failed to take the proper precautions to protect their employees.

"With such a fluid security situation in Toronto this week, a ‘wait-and-see’ attitude just won’t work," adds Ms. Ray-Ellis, who is also a Partner with Toronto law firm Himelfarb, Proszanski LLP. "All GTA employers – even those not in the downtown core – are facing huge risks if they haven’t already conducted a thorough assessment of their employee’s safety in light of the G-20 Summit."

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