Richard LECOUFFE

Richard LeCouffe has been a lawyer since 1976. He is a graduate from the Université de Montréal, from which institution he received his law degree (LL.L.) in 1974.

During his career, although Me LeCouffe was mostly involved in labour and employment law affairs and negotiating labour collective agreements, he also had the opportunity to become very familiar with condominium law. Among other things, he has contributed in the writing of many articles, books, conferences, memoirs and legal procedures on the latter subject.

Let's talk about psychological harassment (1/2)

August 2, 2022- As important players in a co-ownership, employees of a syndicate of co-owners ensure its proper functioning by performing various services expected by residents. The syndicate is thus "the employer", responsible for the safety and health of its employee. Since 2004, the Act respecting labour standards provides that every employee has the right to a work environment free from all forms of psychological harassment. For example, in the event of a dispute caused by a co-owner who exerts regular pressure on the concierge or the doorman, the syndicate must take the necessary measures. If the emplyee files a complaint of harassment, the co-ownership may be held liable for the actions of one of its members.

The law defines psychological harassment as follows: « vexatious behaviour in the form of repeated and hostile or unwanted conduct, verbal comments, actions or gestures, that affects an employee’s dignity or psychological or physical integrity and that results in a harmful work environment for the employee.

A single serious conduct may also constitute psychological harassment if it causes such an injury and produces a continuous harmful effect on the employee. »

This means that an accumulation of words or gestures, even seemingly innocuous, can constitute harassment, due to their repetitive nature and the consequences for the harassed person. Harassment can thus be compared to the torment of the drop of water.

Some examples of vexatious driving

  • repeatedly make derogatory comments to the employee;
  • use verbal abuse or intimidation against him;
  • isolate the person, by refusing to speak to him;
  • repeatedly question his competence, honesty or intelligence;
  • repeatedly mocking or taunting the person;
  • give the person nicknames, make fun of his physical appearance;
  • repeatedly belittle, embarrass or humiliate the person;
  • make unwelcome allusions or advances of a sexual nature;
  • make unnecessary or obscene physical contact (touch, flatter, pinch, etc).

In cases of serious conduct (physical assault or assault, sexual touching, etc.), harassment could occur, even without repetition, when it has a continuous harmful effect on the employee.

Each case must be considered in context, broadly speaking, according to the criterion of a "reasonable person", that is, an objective, moderately intelligent and informed person, and not presenting a personality disorder.

The syndicate's obligations

A syndicate of co-ownership, as employer, must take reasonable measures to prevent psychological harassment and, when such conduct is brought to its attention, to put an end to it.

This applies not only to other employees and their immediate superiors, but also to the directors, managers, suppliers of the syndicate, and even co-owners!

It must be stressed, however, that the obligation imposed on syndicate is one of means, not of result. The employer is required to take "reasonable steps" to protect the dignity of its employees and ensure a workplace free from all forms of harassment.

In a future chronic, we will look at various concrete steps that can be taken to prevent harassment. We will also look at the actions that the directors of the union should take, following the filing of a harassment complaint.

 

Richard LeCouffe, Avocat

Therrien Couture Joli-Cœur S.E.N.C.R.L

1100, boul. René-Lévesque O.,
Bureau 2000
Montréal (Québec) H3B 4N4

Tél. : (514) 335-9595 / sans frais 855 633.6326

[email protected]

 

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