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What would be considered an assault at work?

THE QUESTION

If a human resources supervisor gets physically aggressive toward a direct report – grabbing things out of the person's hand, but not touching them – would this be considered an assault and should that direct report call the police?

THE ANSWER

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A criminal assault is committed where there is an intentional application of force without your consent. While your supervisor's behaviour may meet a very technical definition of assault, I doubt it is enough for the police to lay charges. The better approach is to consider this a form of unwelcome workplace harassment, especially if this is repetitive behaviour. This could then be pursued as part of a civil action against the supervisor and your employer.

THE QUESTION

My manager is bullying me and it has gotten worse since HR got involved. Recently I took a leave because I could not take it any more. What are my options?

THE ANSWER

Explore whether your employer offers disability insurance. If you need to take a medical leave, at least it should be paid. Employment insurance sickness benefits may also be available. If you want to return to the job after you get better, you can try to escalate things internally. If you want to leave, you can resign and claim constructive dismissal, but you would have to prove you were forced out by a bullying manager in order to get severance. You can also claim additional money for the impact on your health. You said things got worse after you complained. Taking revenge on an employee for making a harassment complaint is a form of reprisal and it is prohibited.

THE QUESTION

I have recently been offered a permanent position with a government agency. The hours are part-time. Does that mean I can only work part-time hours? Does it mean I am exempted from their pension plan? Would you clarify what it means to be a permanent part-time employee?

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THE ANSWER

Canadian law does not attach much importance to being a part-time employee. Sometimes, people work up to 24 or even 32 hours a week and are still considered part-time. Part-time employees are not automatically excluded from pension plans. You should ask the agency making the offer how they define part-time and whether you will be included in the pension plan. These are basic questions that they should be happy to answer. Being a permanent employee at a government agency, whether part-time or full-time, usually means that you are not on a temporary contract. You are there until you retire, or until you are terminated or quit.

Daniel A. Lublin is a partner at Whitten & Lublin, employment and labour lawyers, and he is the author of The Law of Contractors. E-mail:Dan@canadaemploymentlawyer.com

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About the Author
Globe Careers employment law expert

Daniel is a nationally recognized workplace law expert and a partner at Whitten & Lublin (www.toronto-employmentlawyer.com), where he represents both individual and corporate clients. Daniel frequently writes and appears in the media as a commentator for workplace legal issues. Since 2008, he has been named as one of Canada's top employment lawyers. More

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