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Katherine Lippel, a well-known Qub0065c expert on legal issues related to the compensation program for victims of occupational accidents and diseases, spoke to participants at the CUPE National Health and Safety Conference on Friday evening.

The UQAM professor gave an overview of the new Qub0065c law that, for the first time, recognizes psychological harassment in the workplace and provides a remedy for victims. Qub0065c is the only government in North America to recognize this very real problem.

Adopted in December 2002, the Act has been in force since June of this year. Victims of psychological harassment can now make a complaint to have the harassment stopped and apply for compensation. The Act amends Qub0065c’s labour standards and all collective agreements under provincial jurisdiction.

“Employees are entitled to have a workplace free from harassment,” she said. “Employers now have a responsibility to create a harassment-free environment to prevent situations from occurring in the first place.” Lippel emphasized that under no circumstances is the behaviour or attitude of the victim, which may be problematic, viewed an excuse or justification for the psychological harassment.

Before this Act, employees had to wait until they were ill before being able to make a claim. Since the new legislation emphasizes prevention, a person does not have to be ill or the victim of a psychological injury in order to make a complaint under the legislation. An injury to self-respect is sufficient.

“As union activists, how should you react to a case of psychological harassment?” asked Lippel. First and foremost, she said to avoid having the claim procedure worsen the situation for the victim. She said it is important to intervene as quickly as possible, to avoid marginalizing the person and leaving the victim to feel that he or she is to blame for the psychological harassment.

“Since the application of this Act is relatively recent, over the months and years to come, we will learn what impact it has in concrete terms in the workplace. Nevertheless, it is a breakthrough for all workers,” she concluded.