Sexual harassment is unwanted sexual comments or actions. If it occurs at work, or outside of work by an employer or coworker, the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Human Rights Act say this conduct is illegal. Certain actions are also illegal under the Criminal Code of Canada and could result in a criminal charge. You will need to hire an employment lawyer to ensure you manage the sexual harassment claims properly.
While the person doing the harassing is the one at fault and responsible for his or her own actions, the employer is also responsible for promptly and properly dealing with the situation when it is brought to their attention. The employer will be held responsible if they should have known or knew about the harassments, or if they fail to deal with the situation properly. In these cases, the victim of the harassment is able to sue their employer.
Read on to discover the duties an employer has to investigate and deal with sexual harassment in the workplace.
All employers must investigate all incidents of workplace harassment. This is true whether an employee has made an informal or formal complaint, or even if no compliant was made but the employer is aware of an incident that has taken place.
The employer has to write up a report that lays out the steps that were taken during the investigation. This report must include the complaint, allegations from the complainant, any response from the alleged harasser, and any evidence from witnesses or elsewhere (like emails or videos, for example).
2. Keep it Confidential
All information about the complaint or incident of harassment must be kept confidential by the employer, unless it is necessary to disclose for the purposes of the investigations. An employer may disclose the information by taking corrective action, or, of course, if required by law.
3. Inform the Parties
Once the investigation is completed, both the complainant, or the person who has made the complaint, and the alleged harasser, if he or she is an employee of the same company, must be informed in writing of the results. The information must also include any corrective actions that have or will be taken as a result of the investigation.
4. Consult with the Health and Safety Committee
Employers must consult with the workplace health and safety committee or a representative thereof in order to develop a written workplace harassment program. This program must set out, among other things, procedures for employees to report incidents of harassment, and how incidents and complaints will be investigated and dealt with.
5. These Spoken Words or Sounds Are Forbidden
You should the following words and sounds:
- vulgar language;
- making kissing or whistling sounds;
- always talking about sex;
- making sexist insults or remarks;
- telling sex jokes;
- making sexual threats; or
- questioning someone about their sex life.
These gestures might be subtle or more obvious, and can be made by anyone’s face, hands, eyes, or other parts of their body.
6. No Physical Contact Allowed
Unwanted touch or threats of touch can be considered sexual harassment. There doesn’t always have to be direct contact; it could also include someone who stands too close to another person and makes that person’s space feel invaded. Sexual harassment can include someone brushing up against another person, or pinching or touching anyone in an inappropriate way. Any unwanted physical touch in a sexual manner can also be considered sexual assault under the Criminal Code.
7. Ban Obscene Photos
Showing obscene photos or making someone offensive is also a form of sexual harassment.
8. Stand Up to Intimidation
Examples of intimidation being sexual harassment includes repeated requests for someone to go on a date, or asking for or offering sexual favours. It can also include an employer who makes an employee wear suggestive or revealing clothing.