Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Comstock / Stockbyte / Thinkstock

Improper conduct, degrading remarks, provocative attitude . . . Sexual harassment at work can quickly become intolerable. The law protects employees from sexual harassment which it defines is a form of psychological harassment. 

 

What is sexual harassment?

There are many definitions of sexual harassment, but sexual harassment usually includes these elements: 

  • can be words, gestures, behaviour or physical contact of a sexual nature 
  • usually occurs repeatedly, but can also be one serious incident
  • unwelcomed by the person targeted
  • has a negative effect on the work environment, including a direct impact such as dismissal or disciplinary measures, or an indirect impact, such as an uncomfortable work environment

 

Am I protected against sexual harassment in the workplace?

Yes, several laws protect you. 

These laws create these rights and responsibilities:

  • You have the right to a workplace free of sexual harassment.
  • Your employer must take steps to prevent sexual harassment and put a stop to it if it happens.

 

Solve the Problem at Work

Many workplaces have a policy on harassment. Ask your human resources manager for information.

You can also talk about the situation with your employer, and ask your employer to intervene to stop the harassment.

If you are unionized, you can contact your union to file a grievance.

 

Remedies

Workers Falling Under Federal Laws

They include employees of the federal government and of banks, telecommunication companies, interprovincial transport companies and ports.

  • If you are one of these employees, you are protected against sexual harassment by the Canada Labour Code and under the Canadian Human Rights Act. 
  • Begin by following the internal complaint process of your workplace. If there is no internal process or if you do not get the results you want under this process, you can file a complaint in your workplace.
  • You can also file a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission

 

Workers Not Under Federal Laws

(except self-employed workers)

(including self-employed workers)

In some cases, you only have the right to make a claim with the CNESST.

Remedies in Civil Court

You might be able to sue the person who sexually harassed you. You can go to court in a civil case to ask for an amount of money as compensation for the harm you suffered.

 

Complaint to the Police

You can also file a complaint to the police if the sexual harassment amounts to a crime. For example, a person who touches you sexually without your agreement can be accused of sexual assault.  

 

Consult a Professional 

In some situations, you can take more than one recourse at the same time. In other cases, you have only one recourse. A lawyer specializing in labour law can analyze your situation and explain your options.
 

Important !
This article explains in a general way the law that applies in Quebec. This article is not a legal opinion or legal advice. To find out the specific rules for your situation, consult a lawyer or notary.