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:
If you are experiencing sexual harassment, please see below an overview of options available to employees experiencing sexual harassment at work.
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.
Sometimes people do not realize that they are offending others. Even though you have already stated no to the unwarranted behaviour, sometimes it is difficult for people to understand the consequences of their actions. If you want to explain the reasons your discomfort more specifically and feel safe doing so, you have options that might help make this conversation feel safer. For example, you can consider telling the individual that their behaviour is hurtful or inappropriate in front of a witness. Sometimes speaking out might end the harassing behaviour. You can ask a trusted person such as a supervisor or union representative, to help you communicate your discomfort. or send them a registered letter and keep a copy of the receipt.
Remember, you only need to say no once to communicate your discomfort with the harassing behaviour. The suggestions above are options if you feel a conversation is the right approach for you, but not necessary steps. If the harassment continues after you’ve said no, you can instead choose to move on to the more formal steps outlined below.
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:
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.
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.