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Sexual Harassment at Work and How to Deal with It

In Canada the following behaviors constitute sexual harassment at work. The key question asked when determining sexual harassment is: "was the action unwanted by the complainant?" If the answer is "Yes" then there is a case for sexual harassment to be filed.

sexual harassment at work

What Constitutes Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

  • Passing or uttering sexually degrading jokes or remarks to describe an individual or group

  • Asking unwanted questions or making comments about an employee or co-worker's sex life

  • Unwanted sexual advances and propositions of an employee or co-worker for a date or relationship

  • Requests for sexual favours in exchange for job benefits

  • Bullying, threats or abuse such as; threat of job loss, or lack of advancement, and other negative sanctions if the employee did not have a sexual affair with the abuser
  • Leering i.e. consistently staring lustfully at a co-worker's body

  • Making unwanted sexual or suggestive gestures to co-worker

  • Displaying sexually offensive material, such as pornography or degrading images in the workplace

  • Unwanted touching suggestively, intentionally brushing up against a co-worker, using force in patting, hugging, pinching, kissing or grabbing a co-worker, also constitutes a criminal offence of "sexual assault"

  • Sexual assault

Kinds of Sexual Harassment at Work

Sexual harassment incidences usually fall into one of the following categories:

Gender harassment, with behaviors such as: negative remarks, jokes about the opposite sex or about a co-worker's sexual orientation.

Unwanted non-verbal sexual advances such as: inappropriate touching, intentionally getting too close, leering, making sexual gestures, and sexual assault.

Verbal sexual attention such as: sharing insulting jokes or remarks about a co-worker or group of individuals; asking unwanted questions about a colleague?s sex life; and pestering a employee for sexual favours.

Sexual coercion which include: threats of demotion; or job loss; and offering job benefits in exchange for sexual favours.

Should you experience any one or more of the above incidences of sexual harassment at work, there are certain steps you can take to curb the unwanted behavior.

Handling Sexual Harassment at Work

For assistance with handling sexual harassment investigations, or to conduct training on handling sexual harassment issues in your organization, contact us.