Understanding Workplace Harassment

Workplace harassment is a growing problem. Everyone is aware that bullying happens in a school playground, but did you know that it also happens in the workplace?

Here's what you need to know about harassment in the workplace and what you can do to protect yourself.

There are many forms of workplace harassment, and by recognizing them can help you know what situations to avoid, or how to address the problem.

Recognizing Harassment

Supervisor Harrassment

The term includes many forms of objectionable behaviour. If a person's behaviour is intended to embarrass, humiliate or demean you, then this could be considered harassment.

It could include actions such as touching or pushing; name calling, jokes and other comments; threats and intimidation; sending or displaying offensive material.

Sexual harassment also comes under the heading of workplace harassment. This includes unwanted sexual behaviour such as cat calls, innuendoes, explicit comments, leering, fondling and sexist remarks, as well as asking for sexual favours, assault and rape.

Any abuse of authority may also come under the heading of harassment in the workplace.

Your Rights

Under Canadian law you have the right to be protected from harassment.

The Canada Human Rights Act and Canadian Labour Code both prohibit harassment, while the Criminal Code of Canada provides legal protection against physical or sexual assault.

There will also be provisions in provincial human rights acts. Canadian law imposes an obligation on employers to have anti-harassment policies for the protection of their employees. These will outline how someone who is being harassed can report this.

Employers can be held legally and financially responsible for harassment and its consequences.

Dealing With Harassment in the Workplace

Many people who are affected by harassment at work, fail to report it. Fear and mistrust can prevent reporting, but that's exactly what you must do.

Stop Harrassment

Although it's tempting to think that your complaint will not be treated seriously, the problem will not go away if you ignore it, and your employer has to take it seriously.

If you are being harassed it is important to keep a record of any incidents, including copies of offensive material which has been posted or emailed to you. Find out about your employer's policy on harassment so you will know who to complain to.

You may find that others have also been harassed by the same person and they may provide support for you when making a complaint.

Finally, you can file a complaint with the local Human Rights Commission if there are any adverse effects from your complaint. You have the right to a safe working environment, so don't let harassment ruin your workplace.

Contact us for more information and help in dealing with workplace harassment.