Colored with scrolling

Try scrolling the rest of the page to see this option in action.

Sexual Harassment in the Workplace: What You Need to Know

Sexual Harassment in the Workplace: What You Need to Know

May 24, 2024

Has someone’s improper behaviour ever made you feel uneasy at work? Sexual harassment is a grave concern that can impact individuals of any gender, ethnicity, or religion. Fortunately, Canada has robust legal frameworks protecting you and guaranteeing a polite workplace.

You need to know about your rights to avoid sexual harassment and have a safe and polite workplace. Let’s talk about sexual harassment in Canada, its definition and the steps you need to take when you experience it. 

Understanding Workplace Discrimination Laws

Understanding workplace discrimination laws is essential to avoid illegal actions. By these regulations, workers are protected against discriminatory hiring, promotion, job assignment, and other treatment related to these characteristics. 

The common examples are race discrimination in the workplace, pregnancy discrimination, religious discrimination, and sex/gender discrimination.

What is Sexual Harassment?

Today, we’ll speak about sex discrimination, more specifically sexual harassment. What is it? And what are its main examples? 

Sexual harassment is an unwelcome sexual activity that hurts the employee. It can be verbal and physical. For example: 

  • Verbal Abuse:

    • Jokes: Making inappropriate and insulting jokes about someone’s body or sex is known as sexual humour.
    • Sexual Comments: Comments regarding your body looks, or sexual preferences that make you uncomfortable are considered unwanted sexual comments.
    • Questions about your Sexual Life: Invasive questions unrelated to business that delve into your personal life.
    • Sexual Terms: Making someone uncomfortable by using suggestive language or by writing out sexual terms.
    • Bringing up Sexual Matters in Professional Conversations: directing discussions away from the task at hand and into sexual topics.
  • Non-Verbal Abuse

    • Displaying Pornography: Shwoing you unwelcome sexual content via a physical or digital medium.
    • Rude Looks and Gestures: Winks, whistles, or gestures that make you feel icky or embarrassed.
    • Blocking Your Way: Standing too close or getting in your way on purpose makes you feel uncomfortable.
  • Physical Abuse:

    • Undesirable Touches: Grabs, hugs, or any touch that makes you feel uncomfortable is a type of harassment. Your body is yours, and no one can touch it if you don’t want it. 
    • Brushing Up Against You: Brushing up means someone touches you in a way that seems accidental, but it’s not. Imagine someone keeps bumping into you “accidentally” or their hand brushes yours a little too often. It might seem small, but if it feels on purpose and makes you uncomfortable, it’s sexual harassment. 
    • Attempted Rape: Any attempt to force someone into sexual activity against their will.

Also, if someone threatens you and forces you to engage in sexual activities in exchange for a better work position or anything else, that’s harassment.

Signs of Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment at work can be tricky. Sometimes it’s super obvious, like gross comments or unwanted touching. While there are cases when it’s not that much obvious. How can you know that you are a victim of sexual harassment:

  • Does someone’s behaviour make you feel uncomfortable or unsafe at work? That’s not okay!
  • Do you avoid someone or certain places at work because of them? You shouldn’t have to hide.
  • Is dealing with this person making it hard to do your job well? It shouldn’t affect your work!
  • Are you worried about getting in trouble if you speak up? Remember, you have rights and shouldn’t be afraid to talk about what’s happening.

What to Do if You Experience Sexual Harassment

If you are experiencing sexual harassment, there are steps you can take:

  • Document everything: Write down the details of the incident, including the date, time, location, what happened, and who was involved. Keep copies of any emails, texts, or voicemails that are harassing in nature.
  • Tell the person to stop: You can do this verbally or in writing.  Do this safely, maybe with a friend or colleague present.
  • Tell Your Boss: Most workplaces have rules against sexual harassment. Find out who handles these complaints and follow their steps to report them.
  • Talk to an employment lawyer: An employment lawyer can advise you of your rights and help you take legal action if necessary. Understanding employment standards in Canada can also be helpful.

Remember, you are not alone. There are resources available to help you deal with sexual harassment. Here are some organizations that can help:

It is important to take action if you are experiencing sexual harassment. By speaking up, you can help to create a safer and more respectful workplace for yourself and others.

Impact of Sexual Harassment on Mental Health

The constant stress of sexual harassment can burrow deep, leaving a person feeling constantly on edge. It’s like working in a minefield, where every interaction holds the potential for another uncomfortable encounter. This fear takes a toll, making it hard to focus and leading to fatigue. You might even start withdrawing from colleagues and social events, feeling isolated and distrustful. 

Preventive Measures Employers Can Take

Employers can avoid sexual harassment and maintain a safe workplace by implementing these easy steps:

  • Clear Policies and Training: Establish and implement uncomplicated policies that precisely identify sexual harassment and the associated penalties. All staff members, including management, should receive regular training on these principles and the definition of harassment.
  • Channels of Open Communication: Provide methods that are simple for staff members to report harassment. This might involve the use of technologies for anonymous reporting or specialized HR staff who have been trained to handle these situations delicately.
  • Bystander Intervention Training: Provide training on bystander intervention so that staff members may identify and put an end to any harassing incidents. This encourages everyone to respond when they see unacceptable behaviour, which helps to foster a respectful work atmosphere.

Encourage an environment in the workplace where harassment is not tolerated at all, employers can create a healthy environment. 

Legal Framework in Canada

Sexual harassment is a serious issue, but the good news is Canada has strong laws in place to protect employees. There are strong provincial and federal laws that help each employee work in a safe and comfortable working environment, which is free from sexual harassment. These laws clearly define all your rights as an employee and make employers be responsible for any sexual action, preventing complaints and addressing any issues you have. Once you feel like you’re sexually harassed, document everything and then report it to the employer. If you feel that after that, the employer doesn’t take any desirable actions, seek legal advice. Finding professional employment lawyers is a breeze with us. At our lawyer marketplace, you can find a professional who can support your case. 

If you ever have any questions or concerns about this topic, don’t hesitate to reach out! Subscribe to LawVo and let’s stop sexual harassment together. 

Back to blogs