The legal case against bullying in the workplace

By Lauren M. Bernardi
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 09/04/2003

In April 1999, Pierre Lebrun, an employee of OC Transpo in Ottawa, went on a shooting spree that ended with five deaths, including his own by suicide. Lebrun had been subjected to incessant bullying and ridicule by his colleagues for his speech impediment and facial tick.

At the coroner’s inquest the jury made 77 recommendations about preventing and responding to workplace violence. One recommendation was a request for federal and provincial legislation to combat violence, including physical and psychological violence from co-workers.

The jury paid particular attention to psychological violence, which it defined as “bullying, mobbing, teasing, ridicule or any other act or words that could psychologically hurt or isolate a person in the workplace.” They expressed the need for greater recognition of the effect of verbal abuse on victims. They also stressed that the issue should be viewed from a preventative standpoint and not just seen as a criminal activity that is dealt with after the fact.