In Canada, employers are responsible for providing an environment that is free of harassment, including sexual harassment. They are legally bound to respond to sexual harassment complaints and can be held liable if they fail to act. However, it is individuals – especially leaders and managers – who have a responsibility to help stop and even fight such harassment in the workplace. Whether you are a victim or an observer, here are things you can do to fight sexual harassment in the workplace.
What is Sexual Harassment?
Sexual harassment is discriminatory behaviour that offends or humiliates another person. It could be sustained and continuous or it could be one serious incident. Sexual harassment legislation also prohibits “payback” when a person raises a concern or lodges a complaint and are then subject to hostility, excessive scrutiny, exclusion, demotion or other retributive actions.
How Can I Help Fight Sexual Harassment?
First and foremost, keep a written record of any harassment incidents. If you are an observer of someone being sexually harassed, encourage them to keep documentation. Notes should include the name(s) of the offender(s), the action, conversation, dates, times and locations. It can also be useful to write down the names of any bystanders who observed the interaction.
If an employee reports sexual harassment to you, have them start by attempting to resolve the problem through the policies put in place by the organization. Offer to accompany the employee to Human Resources to provide some support as they begin the resolution process. It is important to advise employees that lodging an HR complaint will not impede their ability to pursue a human rights claim or take other legal action if the company fails to act.
If you need a certified Workplace Investigator to look into the situation, contact the Employment Professionals Of Canada today.
If You See Something, Say Something
Bystanders have a responsibility to fight sexual harassment when they see it, especially those in leadership roles. Some people may be comfortable enough to confront the person engaging in inappropriate behaviour, but such confrontations should be diplomatic. Talk to the offending employee about the behaviour you witnessed, explain to them the behaviour could be considered sexual harassment and make sure they understand the consequences of their actions. It is wise to consult with HR before having a difficult conversation like this because of the potential liability, and to get the incident documented, as well.
It is always good practice to offer support to the person being harassed. People being harassed feel disempowered and your support can help them find the strength to take action. If you did not witness the incident, be careful choosing sides. Provide your support and direct the employee to HR to find a solution.
A Harassment-Free Workplace Starts With Hiring
Hiring the right people can help you foster a harassment-free workplace. Thorough screening, interviewing and background checks can ensure you are making strong hiring choices and working with people who add real value to the organization. For innovative hiring solutions that can help your business, contact the experts at Employment Professionals Canada today.