Source: DNA India
After decades of coverage in the media and the courtroom, sexual harassment continues to be a huge and costly issue in today’s corporate environment. Sexual violence against women remains a major impediment to women’s self-realization and infringes on their right to a life of dignity.
Sexual Harassment Laws at Work
Once it was deemed as an accepted part of a woman’s work—something she had just had to deal with—has now been called unacceptable behavior by society. As a result of this changed social mentality, it is now seen to breach Canadian human rights laws. Nearly every country faces sexual harassment cases against women that pervades in homes, public places, workplaces, and each needs proper counseling for depression to recuperate.
Most countries view sexual harassment as a gender-based issue, and few regard it as a gender-neutral issue. But we must remember that sexual harassment can take place with anyone irrespective of his age, gender, character, and attitude.
History of Sexual Harassment Laws
Initially, there was no provision of Canadian human rights legislation that defines laws against sexual harassment in the workplace. There was only one clause prohibiting sex-based discrimination. For this reason, it had been important to establish that sexual harassment was a form of sex discrimination in order to seek legal redress under the legislation.
That being said, it became less relevant after 1981 when the Ontario Human Rights Code was amended to include provisions specifically banning sexual harassment. Currently, seven Canadian jurisdictions expressly prohibit sexual harassment based on sex—Federal, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Ontario, Quebec, and Yukon Territory.
Sexual harassment is now clearly a breach of human rights legislation in Canada. However, what constitutes explicitly sexual harassment also needs to be defined.
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What is Sexual Harassment?
Sexual harassment is offensive conduct faced in the workplace that includes any unwanted, unwelcome, unlawful behavior that has attached sexual connotations.
It may be an appeal for a “quid pro quo” if the man is asking for a sexual favor in exchange for promotions or a foreign assignment. At other times, such behaviors include physical, verbal, and nonverbal actions and gestures like unwanted name-calling, patting, stroking, or flashing private parts, smacking lips, leering elevator eyes, and so on.
Conversely, a polite compliment or asking a colleague for a date is usually not considered
harassment unless the behavior is unwelcome and becomes severe or pervasive.
For that, a person must know how to identify harassment in the workplace to make sure that they understand what types of acts and actions are sexual harassment and what is not sexual harassment? A psychological counselor would clearly help you find out.
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How to Deal with Sexual Harassment
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It can be stressful to deal with a sexual assault issue whether you have a complaint, are convicted, or otherwise. If you want to talk to someone on online counseling live about the emotional challenges, help is always near you. What you can do:
- Find a support network:
Join the corporate wellness programs, find a small but strong community of people you trust, have connections to and if you feel like you can, speak to them about what’s going on. It would certainly be complicated and difficult to make such decisions.
Lean on your network for advice when you can but note that “there’s no one right or wrong way to do things.”
- Turn to professionals:
Regardless of how much your core support network loves you, they might not actually have the experience to help you. Reach out to counselors in Ontario or lawyers for guidance about how to handle different experiences and working circumstances from a legal perspective.
Online counseling will help you validate and process your experience and find out how to keep yourself stable and safe from the moment you feel amiss through the long-term implications.
- Practise self-care:
Sexual harassment is a very intense and appalling experience. So you have to be really aware that you surround yourself with things that will make you feel fueled and have the power to deal with what happens in whatever way you decide to do it.
Although you might feel overwhelmed, it’s important to make time for meditation, workout, and take online psychological help from time to time.
Other legal remedies
- You may also complain to the human rights body of your province or with the Canadian Human Rights Commission against your employer and/or the victim. Human rights should not be punitive but are meant to be remedial. Other remedies can involve collecting wages you have missed and/or reference letters if you have had to leave your job.
- In most cases, you don’t need a lawyer to complain against sexual harassment or file a charge with the EEOC. But if you find the case is complicated and need guidance about whether such actions are sexual harassment or have a fear, you should ask for legal advice.
- Some organizations provide free online counseling. Look for plaintiffs’ lawyers or others who could give you the right legal advice rather than seeking advice from employees.
Other directories like the American Bar Association, National Employment Lawyers Association, or the nonprofit organization Workplace Fairness can also be consulted. Otherwise, advocacy organizations, such as Equal Rights Advocate, provide online counseling live, legal advice, and others.
Laws Against Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
Given the alarming situation, new legislation has been introduced by the Government of Canada that explicitly prohibits discrimination based on sex.
Presently, the right is protected by the Canadian Human Rights Act, the Provincial and Territorial Human Rights Laws, and as well as by the Canada Labour Code. Everyone recourse to victims of sexual harassment.
The definition of sexual harassment is laid down in these three laws:
Ontario Human Rights Code
The Ontario Human Rights Code Amendments of 1981 include provisions banning sexual prohibition.
It is the local law of human rights that deals with discrimination. According to this code, sexual harassment is an offense. Ontario also has safety legislation that deals with sexual harassment laws in the workplace in particular.
Under this code, sexual harassment is deemed to be discrimination on the basis of sex. This code also includes stalking as a form of sexual harassment.
Canadian Labour Law
Employers shall be entitled to the right to have employment free from sexual harassment, and such issues shall be treated positively, and employers shall take positive measures pursuant to Division XV.1 of Part III.
Underneath the definition of sexual harassment at work, anyone has the right to claim sexual harassment at work. The role of an employer in preventing sexual harassment at work and how employees should be aware of the sexual harassment policy.
Canadian Criminal Law
In Canadian criminal law, sexual harassment is characterized in 3 levels by nature and objective. It is provided under s. 265(1) s. 271 is level 1 of sexual harassment, no further detail is given in this section, taking into account the sexual intent and nature of the assault, and the accused is sentenced at this level to 10 years’ imprisonment.
Section 271 defines Level 2 of sexual harassment, which describes sexual assault that involves a weapon, threatens a person other than the complaint to cause bodily harm, and the accused serve a 14-year jail term.
Under s.273, the sexual harassment of level 3 is defined under s.273 that says that a victim is sentenced to a maximum of 25 years of life in prison for having been harmed, maiming, disfigured, or threatened by a sex assault.
In short, the offense of sexual harassment is considered a less relevant crime. Therefore, imprisonment of up to six months and/or a 2.000-dollar fine are only permitted.
How to Report Sexual Harassment in a Corporate Environment
Source: Candian Business
Keep in mind the following tips-
- Recognize and accept the behavior/action makes you uncomfortable. If the behavior is sexual, decide what you want to do about it.
- Investigate whether the business/organization has a sexual harassment policy—generally, you can find the policy at the HR department. The company policy should also provide its own procedures for filing a lawsuit.
- Choose who you file the report to at work, depending on who you trust and who is harassing you.
- Document all sexual harassment incidents and any follow-up on all verbal communications about your complaint.
It may not be easy for you to report sexual harassment because of barriers. Barriers to reporting include stigma, fear of job loss, demotion, or transfer. So while it is obvious that fear of retaliation also keeps people silent, note that retaliation is another allegation that you may file. And even though the initial complaint doesn’t hold water, this claim can.
It’s your individual choice whether you’d like to report. You can decide not to report at all, which is understandable.
You can contact SHARE (Sexual Harassment and assault resources exchange) to help understand your legal and community options when handling sexual harassment.
Seeking Help for Victims of Sexual Harassment at Work
The lack of strict laws against sexual harassment in the workplace has remained a socially nuanced problem despite the legislation passed against sexual harassment by different countries.
Only making legislation does not help to bring about improvement, but people must learn about the laws and legal procedures, seek mental counseling if required, and be empowered to come out of their fears, share their experiences, and advocate for justice to continue to raise awareness against this issue. Hopefully, taking the rightful online counseling can assist you in improving your decision-making capability that would inspire others in your workplace & society to take action against these failed & not so effective legal and systemic provisions.