Overview of Options

What is workplace sexual harassment?

The most common understanding of workplace sexual harassment is conduct such as making passes, soliciting sexual favours, questions about sexual activities, sexual touching. 

However, workplace sexual harassment is often not about sexual desire or interest at all! It is about control. Often, it involves:

  • sexist attitudes,
  • negative assumptions,
  • hostility,
  • rejection,
  • bullying, or
  • diminishment based on a person’s sex, gender, and sexual orientation.

If you are experiencing sexual harassment, please see below an overview of options available to employees experiencing sexual harassment at work.

Internal Steps

If you are experiencing sexual harassment at work, it is important that you state to the harasser or to a manager at work that you do not consent to this behavior.  

You are only legally required to say no once for the harasser to reasonably know that their behaviour towards you is unwanted. Once you have said no to the behaviour that is occurring, that is sufficient enough to convey your discomfort. As soon as the harasser has heard the word no once, their behaviour is considered harassment if it continues to occur.

If you think it would be helpful to have a conversation, or to communicate internally within your workplace your concerns, below are a few options you may explore.

This may offer the quickest, most efficient relief depending on your situation. However, these steps are not required if you are not comfortable doing so.

External Steps

If you have experienced sexual harassment at work, you can make a complaint external to your workplace. Where and how you make a complaint is your choice.

It depends. If you receive compensation from one area, i.e., a lawsuit, then you will not be able to receive compensation for the same issues from a Human Rights Commission.

If you receive compensation through WorkSafeNB, you will be asked to sign an agreement stating that you will not sue your employer once you have received compensation for your injury.

No matter which option choose you choose, you will always have the option to pursue criminal charges by reporting the harassment to the police.

The best option for you depends on your goals, and financial capabilities. You should consider what result you would like to come out of your complaint such as:

  • An end to the harassment
  • An improved workplace with procedures for workplace sexual harassment
  • Payment for lost wages
  • Payment for injury to dignity, feelings, and self-respect

You should also consider the realities of each option such as how long the process will take and how much control you will have over the process. You should carefully review all the options that apply to your situation and decide which option fits best with your preferences, goals and financial limitations.

Have you experienced sexual harassment at work? Deciding how to proceed can be difficult.

When you are informed it can help you decide what to do next.

You can get legal advice through the Safer Places NB Lawyer Referral Program. If you qualify, this service gives you 2 hours of free consultation with a New Brunswick lawyer who has participated in the SaferPlacesNB.ca workplace sexual harassment training.

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If you require legal advice or are concerned about a workplace sexual harassment situation, please call a lawyer.