Ontario Workers Insights: What Should You Do If You’re Feeling Harassed at Work?

Going to work is a fundamental part of almost everyone’s life. For some it is simply a means to make a living, for others, it is the culmination of years of training and education; however, no matter what work means to you, most would hope their work would be a safe space. Sadly, like most of the world, the workplace is not immune to harassment. Fortunately, you are not alone if it happens to you.

For the record, workplace harassment is never okay. In Ontario, it is an employer’s duty and obligation to address and deal with workplace harassment according to the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Which begs the questions, what is workplace harassment, and what can I do about it?

What Is Workplace Harassment?

According to the Ontario Ministry of Labour, workplace harassment occurs “when a person engages in a course of vexatious comment or conduct against a worker in a workplace which is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome.”

This includes, but is not limited to:

  • offensive comments or jokes
  • bullying or aggressive behaviour
  • inappropriate staring
  • sexual harassment
  • isolating or making fun of a worker because of their gender identity

What Should You Do?

If workplace harassment occurs that, depending on the situation, cannot be resolved between the parties involved, the best thing an employee can do is speak to their designated manager or supervisor. Be sure to keep a written record detailing when the incident occurred and where you were harassed, as well as what was said and done, and by whom. It is also prudent to note any people who may have witnessed the incident.

In Ontario, your employer is obligated to:

  • have a workplace harassment policy in place and review it at least once a year (or however often is necessary)
  • have a program in place that details how to lodge a complaint or report an incident of harassment, as well as how those complaints or incidents will be investigated and dealt with
  • provide information and instruction to employees on said policy
  • ensure an appropriate investigation is conducted
  • provide, in writing, the results of the investigation to both the one who experienced the harassment and the alleged harasser

Contact the Police

Although workplace harassment can often be effectively dealt with internally, depending on the severity of the incident, a criminal offence may have occurred that could be outside the scope of your employer. If you feel you have been the victim of a criminal offence in the workplace, including, but not limited to assault, sexual assault or criminal harassment (stalking), please contact your local police department.

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