Workplace Sexual Harassment – The Facts
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 and/or diminishment based on a person’s sex, gender and sexual orientation.
Is sexual harassment against the law?
Yes. Under Health and Safety and Human Rights legislation, employers must prevent and address workplace harassment in their workplaces or they could be held financially liable. Employers are also vicariously responsible for the actions of their employees.
Ignorance of the law is no excuse against liability. Perpetrators of workplace sexual harassment may be:
- Disciplined by their employer, up to and including termination.
- Held personally liable under health and safety legislation or human rights legislation (i.e. financially).
- Charged with a criminal offence under the Criminal Code of Canada.
What can I do if I am being harassed?
Ask the person to stop. An effective way of ending harassment in the workplace is to communicate your concerns directly by telling the person the behaviour is unwelcome and must stop, or by requesting your employer do so on your behalf.
If dealing directly with the harasser doesn’t work, or you don’t feel safe talking to the harasser directly, you can talk to your employer or someone in human resources. Employers in New Brunswick are required to have a policy on bullying and harassment, which should include a complaint process. If you belong to a union, talk to the union representative.