Workplace Investigation Outcomes: Insights from the OLRB's Recent Decision

**Written by Zura Nakiwoga, Articling Student at Lee Workplace Law

In a recent case, the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) offered valuable insights into employer responsibilities regarding workplace investigation disclosures under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA). The case, Shannon Horner v Stelco Inc. Lake Erie, 2024 CanLII 16448 (ON LRB), holds significance for both employers and employees, shedding light on important aspects of workplace investigations.

Understanding OHSA Obligations

Section 32.0.7 of OHSA requires employers to investigate complaints of workplace harassment. As part of this obligation, employers must communicate the outcome, as follows:

"32.0.7 (1) To protect a worker from workplace harassment, an employer shall ensure that…

(b) the worker who has allegedly experienced workplace harassment and the alleged harasser, if he or she is a worker of the employer, are informed in writing of the results of the investigation and of any corrective action that has been taken or that will be taken as a result of the investigation."

The intent of this section is to ensure that parties directly involved in the complaint are provided with clear and formal notification of the investigation outcomes.

There are three key aspects to this communication obligation:

  1. Informed in writing – The outcome must be communicated in writing. Verbally relaying the results would not be sufficient.
  2. Investigation results - This refers to the conclusions reached in the investigation process a.k.a. whether the complaint was substantiated. Results may include determinations regarding the validity of the allegations, identification of individuals involved in the alleged misconduct, and a summary of the basis for these determinations.
  3. Corrective actions - This encompasses measures taken by the employer to address the issues identified during the investigation (if any). These actions aim to rectify the situation, prevent future occurrences of misconduct, and promote a safe and respectful work environment. Examples of corrective actions may include disciplinary measures, retraining programs, policy revisions, or implementing new protocols to prevent recurrence. While the employer is required to provide information about the corrective action being taken, this needs to be balanced with the respondent's entitlement to confidentiality about specific disciplinary consequences.

Shannon Horner v. Stelco Inc. Lake Erie

In the Shannon Horner case, the employer, Stelco, conducted a workplace investigation into allegations of harassment. At the end of the investigation, it provided a closure letter to the complainant outlining the findings of the investigation and proposed corrective measures. The closure letter read as follows:

"After conducting a thorough investigation, we find evidence of harassment as contemplated in Item 9 of the Basic Agreement. As a result of this investigation, corrective actions have been or will be taken by the Company. Additionally, we will be proceeding with mandatory training for all bargaining unit employees."

The complainant filed a complaint with the OLRB, alleging that the closure letter failed to identify the specific individuals involved in the harassment allegations, thereby hindering a comprehensive understanding of the situation. Additionally, the complainant argued that the lack of detail regarding proposed corrective actions left uncertainty about how the issue would be addressed and prevented from reoccurring.

The letter did not specify the nature of the corrective actions that had been taken or would be taken by the company. While it acknowledged the findings of harassment and the implementation of corrective measures, it lacked clarity regarding the specific individuals implicated, as well as the actions planned or already executed. This lack of specificity left the complainant uncertain about the steps being taken to address the harassment and prevent its recurrence, thereby falling short of the requirements under OHSA Section 32.0.7(1)(b).

The failure to provide detailed information on the corrective measures was a crucial factor in the OLRB's determination that the closure letter did not comply with the employer's obligations under the legislation. Without clear information on the proposed corrective actions, the complainant would not have a full understanding of how the employer intended to address the harassment and ensure a safe work environment. This lack of clarity undermined the effectiveness of the employer's response to the harassment complaint and led to dissatisfaction on the part of the complainant, ultimately resulting in further legal action.

Key Insights for Employers

The OLRB's decision underscores the importance of clear and transparent communication in workplace investigations. The key takeaways for employers include:

  1. Clarity in Communication: Employers must ensure that closure letters clearly identify individuals implicated in harassment and specify the corrective measures to be taken. Clear and transparent communication fosters trust and accountability in the workplace.
  2. Balancing Confidentiality: Employers must strike a balance between confidentiality and transparency. While individuals involved do not have access to the full investigation report, they are entitled to know the outcome and be provided with an overview of the actions taken as a result. Where disciplinary action is being imposed against the respondent, the complainant should be advised of the fact measures are being taken, but not necessarily the exact details of the disciplinary action, to preserve the respondent's confidentiality interest.
  3. Professional Investigations: Ensuring the investigation is conducted by a neutral party with experience handling sensitive workplace issues is key, whether the investigation is being handled internally or referred to an external investigator. Conducting investigations with neutrality, professionalism and care is crucial.


The OLRB's ruling in Shannon Horner serves as a reminder for employers to fulfill their disclosure obligations under the OHSA. By embracing transparency and professionalism in workplace investigations, employers can cultivate a culture of accountability and mutual respect, ultimately benefiting both employers and employees.