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Workplace Harassment Policies in Canada: A Guide for Employers and Employees

Workplace Harassment Policies in Canada: A Guide for Employers and Employees

January 08, 2024

Have you ever wondered what makes a workplace not just productive but also harmonious and safe? The answer often lies in the policies and culture around workplace harassment. In Canada, these policies are not just recommendations, they’re a necessity for both employers and employees to understand and implement. Let’s take a closer look.

Understanding Workplace Harassment

Workplace harassment can be likened to a destructive weed in a garden, capable of overtaking the entire space if left unchecked. It encompasses any unwelcome action, comment, or gesture that demeans, humiliates, or offends an employee. Recognizing and addressing these behaviours is crucial to maintaining a productive, harmonious, and safe workplace environment.

Legal Framework in Canada

In the Canadian legal context, the framework for addressing workplace harassment is structured and explicit. The Canadian Human Rights Act, and various provincial Human Rights Codes are cornerstones of this framework, prohibit harassment based on race, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, and other grounds.

Additionally, provincial legislation, such as Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act, further details the responsibilities of employers in preventing and responding to harassment, including the requirement for a workplace harassment policy and a procedure for handling complaints. For instance, in Alberta, the Employment Standards Code mandates specific protocols for addressing harassment and violence in the workplace.

These provincial laws, in conjunction with the various Federal and Provincial Human Rights Act, create a cohesive and comprehensive employment law framework across Canada. This structured legal approach highlights the seriousness with which workplace harassment is treated and reinforces the commitment to maintaining a respectful and safe working environment for all.

Workplace Injuries in Canada

Workplace injuries and workers’ compensation in Canada cover a wide range of incidents, from minor mishaps to serious accidents leading to long-term disability. These injuries, which can happen in any job or industry, underscore the necessity for both employers and employees to be well-informed about workplace safety and the legal procedures that follow an injury.

In cases of workplace injuries, a personal injury lawyer specializing in workers’ compensation can be instrumental. These legal professionals guide injured employees through the complexities of filing and pursuing compensation claims under provincial legislation, such as British Columbia’s Workers Compensation Act or Quebec’s Act Respecting Industrial Accidents and Occupational Diseases. Their expertise ensures that the rights of injured workers are upheld and that they receive the necessary support and compensation as dictated by Canadian law.

Role of Employers

Employers bear significant responsibility, akin to the captains of ships, who are not only leading but also safeguarding the welfare of their crew. This responsibility includes creating and enforcing anti-harassment policies, ensuring compliance with legal standards, and fostering a work environment that is free from harassment. They play a pivotal role in setting the tone and culture of the workplace. Let’s examine the key do’s and don’ts for employers:


  • Create and Implement Clear Policies: Develop comprehensive anti-harassment policies that are easily understandable and accessible to all employees.
  • Provide Regular Training: Conduct regular training sessions for employees and management on harassment prevention and response.
  • Establish Reporting Mechanisms: Set up confidential and straightforward procedures for reporting harassment.
  • Respond Promptly and Fairly: Take immediate and impartial action on reported incidents of harassment.
  • Promote a Positive Culture: Actively foster a workplace culture that values respect, diversity, and inclusion.


  • Ignore Complaints: Never overlook or dismiss reports of harassment, regardless of the perceived severity.
  • Retaliate Against Complainants: Do not penalize employees for reporting harassment or participating in an investigation.
  • Allow Biased Investigations: Avoid allowing personal relationships or biases to influence the outcome of a harassment investigation.
  • Neglect Employee Training: Do not skip or minimize the importance of regular training and awareness programs.
  • Fail to Update Policies: Avoid letting policies become outdated; regularly review and update them to reflect current laws and best practices.

Role of Employees

Each employee contributes to the workplace atmosphere, much like players in a sports team. It’s about more than just doing their job; it’s about being aware, respectful, and supportive of each other. This collaborative effort helps maintain a positive and respectful work environment where harassment is not tolerated. Now, let’s look at the do’s and don’ts for employees.


  • Report Incidents: If you experience or witness harassment, report it using the established channels in your workplace.
  • Support Colleagues: Offer support to colleagues who may be experiencing harassment.
  • Participate in Training: Engage actively in training sessions and understand your role in preventing workplace harassment.
  • Respect Boundaries: Be mindful of your colleagues’ boundaries and ensure your behaviour is respectful and professional.
  • Uphold Workplace Policies: Familiarize yourself with your workplace’s anti-harassment policies and adhere to them.


  • Engage in Harassing Behaviour: Do not participate in or encourage any form of harassment.
  • Ignore Policy Guidelines: Avoid disregarding the guidelines and procedures outlined in your workplace’s anti-harassment policy.
  • Remain Silent: Do not stay silent if you witness harassment; report it to the appropriate authorities within your organization.
  • Retaliate Against Complainants: Never retaliate against someone who has reported harassment or is involved in an investigation.
  • Assume It’s Not Your Problem: Do not assume harassment is solely an HR or management issue; it’s everyone’s responsibility to maintain a respectful workplace.

Reporting Mechanisms

Having clear, straightforward, and easily accessible channels for reporting harassment is crucial, akin to the simplicity of raising a hand in a classroom to signal a need. For example, an organization might implement a dedicated online portal where employees can confidentially report incidents, accompanied by clear guidelines on how the process works. These mechanisms should be designed to ensure confidentiality and ease of use, encouraging employees to report incidents without fear of retaliation or judgment. Such a system not only facilitates prompt reporting but also fosters a culture of openness and safety, where employees feel supported and heard.

Training and Awareness

Regular training and awareness sessions about harassment are as important as a lighthouse guiding ships through treacherous waters. Knowledge and understanding of what constitutes harassment, and how to prevent and address it, empower employees and employers alike.

Creating a Safe Workplace Culture

The culture of an organization is its soul. Cultivating a culture that actively condemns harassment and supports victims lays the foundation for all employees to thrive. It’s about nurturing an environment where respect and safety are paramount.

Harassment Complaints and Prevention Strategies

Addressing harassment complaints necessitates a method as delicate and balanced as a judge’s approach in a courtroom. For example, this might involve a neutral third-party investigator conducting interviews and gathering evidence to ensure an unbiased outcome. The process should be fair, timely, and thorough, akin to a judicial proceeding, to ensure justice and respect for all parties involved.

Preventative measures in dealing with harassment are crucial and can be compared to preventative medicine in healthcare. For instance, implementing regular training sessions on workplace conduct and providing open forums for employee feedback are akin to routine health check-ups, helping to identify and address issues before they escalate into harassment. These strategies, including clear communication and regular check-ins, are essential in building a work environment where harassment is less likely to occur.

Examining real-life cases and examples of workplace harassment provides invaluable lessons, akin to learning from historical events to avoid repeating past mistakes. These studies offer practical insights into effective management and prevention strategies.

Creating a harassment-free workplace in Canada is a collective task, demanding commitment, understanding, and proactive steps from both employers and employees. It’s about building an environment where everyone can work safely and respectfully.

For effective resolution of issues related to workplace harassment, subscribing to LawVo can be a decisive step. LawVo is a legal platform, which offers specialized resources and guidance tailored to navigate the complexities of employment law, particularly in addressing workplace harassment.

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