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Workplace ViolenceToolkit

Defining Workplace Violence


The CFNU's Definition

The CFNU defines Workplace Violence as physical or non-physical violence which includes the threatened, attempted or actual work-related incident of physical force or psychological abuse which can result in physical, emotional and sexual injury, harm, or trauma. Workplace violence includes sexual harassment, harassment, bullying, and lateral violence which may also include cyber-bullying and domestic abuse.

The CFNU defines Harassment as a course of vexatious comment or conduct against a worker in a workplace that is known, or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome, especially any hostile and abusive work-related conduct, comment, or gesture which can be perceived to result in a harmful work environment. If the conduct or comment is of a sexual or gender nature, it is sexual harassment. If the negative conduct or comment is based on specific characteristics commonly found as prohibited grounds for discrimination under human rights codes, it is also discriminatory harassment.

The CFNU defines Bullying and Lateral Violence as inappropriate, offensive, abusive, aggressive, negative, intimidating, or insulting work-related behaviour or abuse of power, which directly or indirectly undermines confidence, devalues ability, or lowers the self-esteem of a worker. Bullying can lead to, and/or be comprised of, lateral violence from co-workers.

All nurses have the right to work in an environment that is free from all forms of violence. Workplace violence is an occupational health and safety hazard, and it is the responsibility of employers to take reasonable precautions to protect workers and patients by preventing, mitigating, and ultimately eliminating the risk of workplace violence.

The risk of workplace violence is influenced by psychosocial factors including working conditions, organizational policies and environmental factors such as:

  • Low decision-making autonomy and rigid work routine
  • Inappropriate or inadequate staffing
  • Excessive use of overtime
  • Inappropriate admission or transportation of patients
  • Inadequate security or security measures
  • Type of health care setting or department (e.g., emergency, psychiatric, long-term care)
  • Working in isolation
  • Managerial disregard

Legislative Map

Legislative Map

Explore the CFNU’s interactive map of relevant provincial and territorial legislation for each type of violence.