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Programs - Workplace Harassment

What is Workplace Harassment?

  • Whenever someone is behaving or saying something that makes you feel uncomfortable or insecure, that is called harassment. Workplace harassment would involve the above actions that happen to you at work, on the way to and from work, or in any office settings.
  • They usually harass on your personal characteristics, including your race, nationality, skin color, sex, sexual preference, face, marital status, etc. Followings are examples of harassments:
    • Offender comment on the way you speak English, picking on your English level
    • Offender appeared on your way to and from work
    • Offender talked to you with a different voice or attempting to attract you by saying something like, "You are very pretty today"
  • However, not all the situations above count as workplace harassment. For instance, your co-worker made comment on the way you dress today without making you feel uncomfortable. This is a friendly comment and does not constitute as workplace harassment. On the other hand, if a co-worker who you do not know well whispered to you very closely which making you very uncomfortable, that is workplace harassment. In short, workplace harassment is whenever someone from your work is making you feel uncomfortable or insecure.

Workplace Harassment is when someone requesting you to have sexual activity with them, making dirty jokes to you, or touching you. The followings are a few examples:

  • Offender lean very closely to you with no reason
  • Offender has sexual posters sticking around the office
  • Offender requested you to go out with him/her or to have sexual activity with him/her, if not, he/she will make trouble for you at work

How to handle workplace harassment?

  1. Concentration
    1. When someone is making you feel uncomfortable, you should keep an eye on that person to see whether he/she is repeating the same behaviour towards you or towards other people as well
    2. You also need to know what the Offender wants from you in order for you to react properly

  2. Look for Help
    1. When you are being a victim, you might be nervous and therefore, you need someone who can understand and support you to talk to

  3. Handle with care
    1. First of all, mark down the Offender's offending time, location, action, and note any witness available
    2. Inform the Offender clearly that you do not like the way he/she behaves, for e.g.:
      1. "The way you look at me is making me a bit uncomfortable. I'm not suspecting you, but please do not look at me like that anymore"
      2. "I accept jokes, but not harassment. If you do not understand the difference between the two, I could show some books to let you understand"
      3. "Canada is a multi-cultural community, could you please respect my culture/skin color/sex"
    3. You may also put some documents that are related to workplace harassment around the office or on/in the Offender's table/mailbox. Circle the important words to make it clear what behaviour is unacceptable
    4. If your co-worker knows your situation, you might want to ask him/her to redirect your thoughts to the Offender
    5. If all of the above leaves the Offender indifferent, you might want to write a letter to the Offender clearly stating the followings:
      1. What kinds of behaviour is acceptable to you
      2. What kinds of actions you will take in the future
      3. To not make matters worse
      4. Do not mention the Offender's feelings or reasons for behaving that way

  4. Report

    1. If you have tried to speak to and given the Offender a written letter with no positive reaction, you can report that to your supervisor or the Offender's supervisor, they have the responsibility to look into your concern
    2. If no supervisor is willing to help you, you can report that to your union representatives
    3. If you are not in any union or your union is not willing to help you, you can report that to the Ontario Human Rights within 6 months of the incident

You should not be silent when facing workplace harassment. The Offender will keep on harassing you if you keep silent. The only way to stop that is to take action.

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