Sexual Harassment, Harassment and Bullying
Being harassed or bullied may be grounds for constructive dismissal
You may be a victim of workplace harassment and bullying if the behaviour of another at work has made it impossible for you to remain working in that environment. Here is what you need to know.
What is workplace harassment and bullying?
Workplace harassment and bullying can take on many forms of behaviour such as:
- threats – verbal or written
- offensive or inappropriate jokes
- inappropriate teasing
- inappropriate touching
- offensive gestures
- public shaming/embarrassment
Legitimate performance management, including direction, feedback, and discipline from a superior does not constitute bullying and harassment.
What is your employer’s responsibility?
Your employer is expected to provide you with a workplace that treats you with decency, civility, and dignity, ensuring you are free from all forms of harassment and bullying. Your employer is expected to act quickly with an investigation and appropriate action steps, in response to your reporting the incident(s).
What should you do if you are being personally harassed or bullied in the workplace?
Bullying and harassment can come from many sources, including your bosses, coworkers, your employer’s vendors and suppliers, customers, clients, patients, investors, and other stakeholders. Bullying and harassment can even come from people unrelated to your employer if your employer does not take steps to prevent repeated instances.
Many times, the act of harassment or bullying will not be objectively clear to your employer, or it may be carried out by individuals who are neither supervisory nor managerial. You may not feel comfortable remaining in your workplace or reporting it to your employer. In all cases, it is important that you meet with an employment lawyer who can counsel you through your options and advise what steps you may wish to take to protect yourself and enforce your legal rights. Intolerable working conditions stemming from personal harassment or bullying may entitle you to quit your job with a fair severance package.
Bullying and harassment is not limited to the conventional workplace. It can occur while you are working remotely, at a client-site, at an after-hours work event, or during business travel.
The Supreme Court of Canada defines sexual harassment as “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature that affects the work environment or leads to adverse job-related consequences for the victims of the harassment…”
Sexual harassment encompasses a wide range of unwelcome conduct of a sexual or gender-related nature including, but not limited to:
- verbal comments of a sexual nature, including dirty jokes
- bragging about sexual conquests
- unreasonable solicitations, such as repeatedly asking for dates or other unwelcome physical contact
- physical conduct
- inappropriate touching
Sexual harassment is not limited to the workplace or normal business hours. You can also be sexually harassed by a work colleague outside the workplace, outside of normal business hours, if they are behaving in an inappropriate sexual manner.
If you are being sexually harassed at work, you have a variety of options available to you including a human rights claim, a lawsuit, or other statutory complaints. Meeting with an employment lawyer will empower you to decide the appropriate course of action and what steps to take to advance your claim or complaint.
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