in the Workplace
DEALING WITH THE ISSUE OF HARASSMENT ISN’T JUST OPTICS
By Lorenzo Lisi
Organizations that are not ready to address harassment and
sexual harassment (whether in the workplace, on social
media or even outside of work hours) risk the viability of
their workplace. Good employees may leave, the compa-ny’s
reputation could suffer and business could decline.
So how do we address harassment in the workplace? This article
will explore how is it defined and what employers can do to make
sure its workplace is harassment free.
The legal definition of harassment is, “a course of vexatious com-ment
or conduct that is known or reasonably to be known to be
unwelcome based on one of the prohibited grounds.” The trans-lation:
Doing something to someone else that disturbs, annoys
or distresses them and something that you know or should have
known that they didn’t like.
Sexual harassment in the workplace occurs when there are
unwelcome sexual advances and/or threats of reprisals for the
rejection of sexual advances made by a person in a position to
grant or deny a benefit to an employee. The harassment can be ver-bal,
physical or visual. It may be conduct or comments that happen
over time or it may be one incident which is so bad that it consti-tutes
So where is the “workplace?” It can be within the four walls of
the establishment, an off-site meeting, a gathering for business or
any other event or place related to employment, even if outside
of normal working hours. It can also be, at times, on social media
where the relationship between the parties arises from work.
THE LEGAL FRAMEWORK
The obligation to provide a workplace free of harassment exists
under human rights and occupational health and safety legis-lation.
These obligations apply to all employers to prevent and
protect employees from discrimination and harassment, including
Sexual harassment on the basis of any prohibited ground
under human rights legislation (for example, sex, sexual orienta-tion,
gender identity or expression) is a violation of the legislation.
Depending on the severity of the conduct, it may also be a criminal
code offence and the basis for a claim at common law. Individuals
who complain about harassment are protected against retaliation,
threats or reprisals for filing a complaint, asserting a complaint or
testifying about harassment.
While employees are not expected to prevent or control the
behaviour of an alleged “harasser,” most employment harassment
policies contain provisions which ask that the employee bring to
Workplace investigations often pit employees
against each other. Ensure your organization has
procedures in place to manage the fallout.
michaeljayfoto / 123RF
HRPROFESSIONALNOW.CA ❚ CONFERENCE ISSUE 2019 ❚ 21