From outright discrimination to workplace bullying, employees can be harassed in a number of ways at work. It is important to understand what constitutes harassment and how to handle it if it ever happens to you.

Types Of Harassment

Workplace harassment occurs when a person engages in a number of vexatious and unwelcome comment or conduct towards another person at work. Workplace harassment takes on a variety of forms. It includes but is not limited to insults and slurs, offensive comments or unwanted jokes, physical bullying or aggressive behaviours, and sexual harassment.

A person of any gender can be the victim of the sexual harassment. Sexual harassment in the workplace is not limited to spoken words and physical behaviours such as touching or staring in a suggestive manner. Obscene images, emails and videos sent to a co-worker are also considered as a form of sexual harassment, which creates a toxic work environment.

Steps To Address The Issue

If you think that you are a victim of workplace harassment, you could follow the steps to resolve the issue:

a. Confront the Perpetrator of the Harassment

If you feel comfortable in doing so, the first step to stop harassment is to confront the perpetrator. As the victim is supposed to prove that the conduct was uninvited and unwelcome, it will strengthen your case if you openly tell the harasser to stop their behaviours when they continue to behave inappropriately. However, if you fear for your own safety, it is not wise to confront your harasser directly.

b. Keep a Written Record of the Incident

It is always a good idea to keep a written record of the incident. You should try to write down the details of what happened during the incident rather than document your own personal feelings. You should make notes of when and where you were harassed, what was said or done, any witnesses at the scene, any injuries you had and any steps you took to fix the problem.

c. Report the Incident to Your Employer

Almost every employer in Ontario has to follow the rules in the Occupational Health and Safety Act, RSO 1990 (OHSA) and establish a workplace harassment policy. You should follow the steps in the workplace harassment policy. The policy should give you various options to report the harassment, including the steps of how to file an internal complaint. You can talk with your supervisor or someone in the Human Resources Department about the incident. If you are a unionized employee, you may contact your union. You should explain to them what has happened and ask for help in getting the behaviour to stop. The OHSA protects you from punishment for complaining about the harassment to your employer.

d. Making a Complaint to the Ministry of Labour (MOL)

If your employer fails to ensure that an appropriate investigation is conducted on the incident, you can make a complaint to the Ministry of Labour (MOL). The MOL will send an inspector to your workplace to see whether the way of dealing with harassments by your employer is good enough. It is important to note that MOL inspectors cannot make a decision about your case nor order compensation or other remedies. They can only look to see whether your employer complies with the OHSA. If not, they can order your employer to make, post or change the workplace harassment policy.

e. Making a Complaint to the Human Rights Tribunal

The Ontario Human Rights Code, RSO 1990 prohibits any discrimination or harassment based on a protected ground, such as race, colour, creed, place of origin, sex, ethnic origin, citizenship, sexual orientation, gender expression, gender identity, record of offences, age, disability, religion, ancestry, marital status and family status. If you are experiencing any harassment related to the above protected grounds, you can make a complaint to the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal.

You employer has a duty to create a workplace free from harassment and discrimination. If you have to leave your job or have been fired because of harassment, it is advisable for you to consult a lawyer to get to know your legal rights. Toronto employment lawyer, Stacey ball can help you determine your legal options. Please call us at 416-921-7997 extension 227.