Being harassed at work is unacceptable and employers are legally required to protect their employees and manage workplace harassment.
Demeaning jokes or suggestions, bullying, sexual innuendo or intimidating actions, whether spoken, gestured, printed or digitally circulated are all unacceptable behaviours in workplaces. In Canada, laws require employers to manage workplace harassment.
What is workplace harassment? Workplace harassment is unwelcome words or action towards an employee that are offensive, embarrassing, humiliating or demeaning. Harassment may intimidate, isolate or discriminate against the individual. Harassment is different from behaviour that is reasonably expected in a workplace as a part of operating a business.
How can workplace harassment be prevented? Workplace harassment causes employee stress and interferes with worker productivity. A simple prevention strategy is to develop a workplace harassment policy and prevention program and to enforce it. Training about the policy shows that the employer truly believes in protecting its workers and treating them respectfully.
Who gets harassed at work? Anyone can be harassed in a workplace. Employees, managers, visitors, customers and even owners may be victimized by workplace harassment.
Who are the harassers? Bosses, co-workers, clients, suppliers and even family or friends may be sources of harassment. If someone targets an individual in a workplace with unwelcome words or actions, whether intentional or unintentional, then they are a harasser.
What should an employee do if they are being harassed? If an employee is harassed or observes another person being harassed at work, they should report this to a senior manager immediately. Employees need to know that harassment reports will be taken seriously.
How should employers manage workplace harassment? Supervisors must take immediate steps to stop and manage workplace harassment incidents. When harassment is reported, interventions should include supporting the victim, confronting the harasser and preventing further harassment. Managers must be tactful and maintain confidentiality. The incident investigation and discipline details should be documented for future reference.
A zero-tolerance policy that is actively supported by senior management and supervisors will help develop harassment free workplaces. Employers striving to prevent and manage workplace harassment will empower employees to report harassment and supervisors to enforce company policy and stopping this type of behaviour in the workplace.
Read more about Ontario’s Workplace Harassment Legislation.