Steps to Prevent and Address Sexual Harassment in The Workplace

While it is clear that today’s society has no tolerance for sexual harassment in the workplace, that does not mean that the problem no longer exists. For a small or medium-sized business, a single complaint can be enough to bring down the entire enterprise or turn it into a toxic workplace. Prevention can, therefore, be just as important as addressing any sexual harassment that does occur.

Contact our Richmond Hill employment lawyers to learn the appropriate steps to prevent and address sexual harassment in your workplace, whether you are an employee or an employer.

What Is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment can be:

  • spoken comments, physical conduct or both,
  • related to a worker’s sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression or,
  • making an unwelcome sexual solicitation or advance where the person making the advance is in a position to grant or deny a benefit or advancement to the worker (generally a supervisor, manager or employer).

Preventing Sexual Harassment 

The Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act governs many incidents of workplace harassment, which includes sexual harassment in the workplace. Under the Ontario law, employers are required to:

  • have in place a workplace harassment policy,
  • implement the harassment policy in the workplace and review the program annually,
  • investigate any incidents or complaints,
  • inform the worker involved in the incident, in writing, of the results of an investigation,
  • educate workers on the content of the workplace harassment policy.

Some employment situations are not covered by the Act, such as employment that occurs in a person’s home or at certain farming enterprises. However, these employers are still subject to the Ontario Human Rights Code, which makes them responsible for preventing sexual harassment in the workplace and can hold them liable if a workplace becomes a “poisoned environment” due to sexual harassment.

Addressing Sexual Harassment in The Workplace

Many employers have procedures in place to deal with sexual harassment in the workplace. The existence of an internal procedure does not necessarily replace a worker’s right to file a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario or to proceed in another way.

Regardless of whether a worker opts to proceed with a complaint outside of an internal program, the employer must proceed with an internal investigation of the incident.

While an internal program might be the best way to proceed in many cases, not every employer will have one, or it might not be appropriate in your circumstances. Other options for addressing sexual harassment in the workplace might include:

  • following procedures set out in your collective agreement
  • making a claim under Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act making a claim under another administrative body or tribunal
  • filing an application with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario
  • contacting the police and pursuing criminal charges.

Contact Blackburn’s Employment Law Lawyers Today

Not all these options will be appropriate in every case of workplace sexual harassment. Our Richmond Hill employment lawyers can help you determine the appropriate steps to prevent and address sexual harassment in your workplace. Contact us today by filling out a consultation form, or calling us at 905-884-9242 to book a consultation with one of our employment lawyers today.

*Disclaimer: Please be advised that this blog is not intended to constitute legal advice. The article provides a general overview of the legal topic. As each legal issue is independent and unique it is important to access qualified legal advice. We recommend that you contact a Richmond Hill employment lawyer for any legal inquiries pertaining to employment law.