By its nature, the term workplace harassment evokes an expansive definition of conduct by someone in the workplace that is unwelcome, whether known or ought to be known to be offensive, embarrassing, humiliating, or demeaning to an employee or group of employees. Harassment doesn’t have to be linked to legislative prohibitions against discrimination, but it can be.
Workplace sexual harassment is a sub-category of workplace harassment. The scope of what could constitute workplace sexual harassment is essentially unlimited and depends on a comprehensive review of all the facts and circumstances. It can include overt acts and more subtle activities. What constitutes workplace sexual harassment conduct has everything from leering, inappropriate comments, touching, inappropriate jokes, solicitation, and abuse of power for a sexual purpose to sexual assault.
The Ontario Human Rights Code
The Ontario Human Rights Code, which should not be seen as a watertight definition, but rather an example of conduct that may be included in what is or may be considered workplace sexual harassment, prohibits workplace sexual harassment in sections 5(2) and (3) as:
Harassment because of sex in workplaces
(2) Every employee has a right to freedom from harassment in the workplace because of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression by his or her employer or agent of the employer or by another employee. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.19, s. 7 (2); 2012, c. 7, s. 6 (2).
(3) Every person has a right to be free from,
- a sexual solicitation or advance made by a person in a position to confer, grant or deny a benefit or advancement to the person where the person making the solicitation or advance knows or ought reasonably to know that it is unwelcome; or
- a reprisal or a threat of reprisal for the rejection of a sexual solicitation or advance where the reprisal is made or threatened by a person in a position to confer, grant or deny a benefit or advancement to the person. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.19, s. 7 (3).
Consensual sexual relationships arising out of a workplace, even between a supervisor and a subordinate are not per se illegal but usually, if challenged, involve complicated legal and factual issues surrounding consent and the conferring of benefits or rewards. Most employers will have drafted policies and conduct educational seminars or training related to harassment and sexual harassment in the workplace. Lack of such training and policy, including any vagueness or ambiguity in its terms of policies, may provide the basis for a partial or complete defence to the challenged conduct.
Workplace Harassment Lawyer
If you need a workplace harassment lawyer, contact John Evans.
With 30 years of experience as a practising litigation/employment/labour lawyer, John is focused on achieving the very best results for his clients. He has fine-tuned his skills and mastered the art of persuasion. With his stellar reputation, John holds the respect of the lawyers he acts against. Smart, tactical and a particularly quick study, John is committed to exceeding his clients’ expectations.
Contact Evans Law Firm
Contact Evans Law Firm today for a free no-obligation consultation with a workplace harassment lawyer. Sometimes time limits can bar an otherwise good claim from being advanced. Please don’t delay and contact us as soon as possible. There is no cost until John is formally retained and a written retainer agreement is in place.