Workplace Violence & Harassment
Everyone should be able to work without fear of violence or harassment, in a safe and healthy workplace. Violence and harassment in the workplace are not tolerated in Canada.
What is Workplace Harassment?
The definition of workplace harassment is “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.”
Some of the types of harassment that workers could experience in the workplace include sexual harassment, teasing, intimidating or offensive jokes or innuendos, display or circulation of offensive pictures or materials, unwelcome, offensive, or intimidating phone calls, or bullying. Leering, unwelcome gifts or attention, offensive gestures, or spreading rumors could also be considered harassment.
Workplace harassment, if left unchecked, can escalate. In some cases, it can lead to physical violence or even death.
Collect Workplace Information
Gathering information about your workplace will help to inform your workplace harassment policy and program. You may:
- Ask workers and supervisors about their concerns regarding workplace harassment;
- Gather information on workplace harassment incidents; or,
- Gather current policies and programs, such as anti-harassment or anti-harassment policies or respectful workplace programs.
Create or Adapt a Workplace Harassment Policy
The Occupational Health and Safety Act requires that you have a policy regarding workplace harassment. Your workplace may already have an anti-harassment policy based on your Provincial or Territorial Human Rights Code that could be broadened to deal with all behaviors that meet the definition of workplace harassment under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. If you decide to have two separate policies, they should be cross-referenced.
The policy should be a high-level statement of the commitment of senior management to protect workers from workplace harassment, and to investigate and deal with any incidents. The policy should address all sources of harassment in the workplace, from strangers, clients, customers, patients, students, workers, supervisors, intimate partners, or family members.
Put your Workplace Harassment Policy and Program into Practice
Measures and Procedures
It is not enough to just develop your workplace harassment policy and program; you need to put the measures and procedures into practice, and train workers and supervisors.
Information, Instruction, Education, and Training
Information, instruction, education, and/or training are important to preventing workplace harassment.
The Occupational Health and Safety Act requires that all workers, including managers and supervisors, receive information and instruction on the contents of the policy and program regarding workplace harassment, including the complaint and investigation processes.
This training could be:
- Integrated into your orientation training;
- Integrated with workplace violence prevention training;
- Integrated with other sensitivity, anti-harassment, anti-discrimination, or respectful workplace training; or,
- Be specific to workplace harassment.