15 Feb Workplace Violence and Harassment
How do I know whether certain actions can be deemed harassment or violence?
Understanding what actions can be defined as harassment in the workplace is an extremely important undertaking. Feeling uncomfortable in the workplace should not be normalized or swept under the rug. An awareness of what conduct can be characterized as harassment allows for these behaviours to be stopped as quickly and safely as possible.
The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) works to protect employees and employers from being victims of violence and harassment in the workplace to ensure that everyone feels safe. Harassment and violence can come from anyone in the workplace including employers, supervisors, employees, customers, clients, students, or volunteers. Harassment doesn’t even have to be someone directly connected to the workplace. If any unwelcome behaviour laid out by the OHSA below happened in the workplace then it qualifies, no matter who performed the violence or harassment.
OHSA defines workplace harassment as: “engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct against a worker in a workplace that is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome.” Unwelcome actions are any actions that are embarrassing, humiliating, offensive, or demeaning to the person receiving these actions. This type of conduct can occur once or several times to qualify as harassment. Actions taken by the employer to the employee that are reasonable do not qualify as workplace harassment.
Workplace Sexual Harassment
Written in the OHSA, workplace sexual harassment is defined on two counts. First, sexual harassment is “engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct against a worker in a workplace because of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, where the course of comment or conduct is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome.” Second, sexual harassment is also defined as: “making a sexual solicitation or advance where the person making it is in a position to confer, grant or deny a benefit or advancement to the worker and the person knows or ought reasonably to know that the solicitation or advance is unwelcome.”
These definitions have many words and broad terms that can be challenging to compare to real life situations. The main identification of sexual harassment is any unwelcome behaviour that is paired with any actions related to sex and gender or sexual solicitation can be identified as this type of harassment.
What Is Not Harassment
Now that we have defined what harassment is, it is also important to note what harassment isn’t. Mostly, any action that is consensual between two people cannot qualify as harassment. For example, consensual banter cannot qualify as harassment if the aggressive banter between two or more people is consensual between the participants. To be certain, all workplaces now support a “zero tolerance” policy.
If you have more questions about conduct that qualifies as workplace violence or harassment, or need help identifying an encounter that you have experienced, please contact KCY at LAW by filling in an online consultation request or contact us by phone at 905-639-0999 to book your consultation today.