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February 2018 Newsletter
Workplace Harassment Calgary
In This Issue
  • Thanks for Joining Us!
  • What is Harassment?
  • Are Employers Responsible When Harassment Occurs?
  • Take the Time to Develop an Effective Harassment and Sexual Harassment Policy
  • Quick Reference: When Does Harassment Occur?
  • Quick Reference: Examples of Harassment
  • Quick Reference: Key Messages From the Government of Canada Public Consultations on Harassment
  • Coach's Corner: What an Effective Harassment Policy Does For Your Organization
February 2018
Volume 5, Number 2

Thanks for Joining Us!

February is here and we making our way through this cold, stormy season. Lots of people are rejoicing with the snow, getting outside and getting active; some of us, however, continue to cocoon inside and stay cozy. Whatever your preference, the day to day life of business goes on. 

In this edition, we are tackling a serious issue that unfortunately still needs addressing: harassment in the workplace. 

The Government of Canada consulted Canadians over the last year to find out how violence and harassment are currently treated in workplaces under federal jurisdiction and how the approach could be strengthened. An online public consultation was open from February 14 to March 9, 2017 and the results were troubling:

Workplace Harassment Calgary
Source: Employment and Social Development Canada
With over 60% of respondents indicating they had experienced harassment in the workplace and 42% reporting harassment within the past two years, the issue is more prevalent than most people realize. It is important that all business leaders understand the definitions and types of harassment, their responsibilities towards their employees, and how to create a culture of zero-tolerance towards harassment in their organizations.

Keep reading for more learning.

What is Harassment?

Federal Definition

The Canadian Human Rights Commission defines harassment as "a form of discrimination. It involves any unwanted physical or verbal behaviour that offends or humiliates you. Generally, harassment is a behaviour that persists over time. Serious one-time incidents can also sometimes be considered harassment."

Harassment comprises objectionable act(s), comment(s) or
display(s) that demean, belittle, or cause personal humiliation or embarrassment, and any act of intimidation or threat. It also includes harassment within the meaning of the Canadian Human Rights Act (i.e. based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, disability and pardoned conviction).

Provincial Definition 

Harassment occurs when someone is subjected to unwelcome verbal or physical conduct. Harassment is a form of discrimination that is prohibited in Alberta under the Alberta Human Rights Act if it is based on one or more of the following grounds: race, religious beliefs, colour, gender, gender identity, gender expression, physical disability, mental disability, age, ancestry, place of origin, marital status, source of income, family status, or sexual orientation.

Unwanted physical contact, attention, demands, jokes or insults are harassment when they occur in any of the areas protected under the Alberta Human Rights Act. These protected areas are statements, publications, notices, signs, symbols, emblems or other representations that are published, issued or displayed before the public; goods, services, accommodation or facilities customarily available to the public; tenancy; employment practices, employment applications or advertisements; and membership in trade unions, employers' organizations or occupational associations.

Are Employers Responsible When Harassment Occurs?

Workplace harassment

The Alberta Human Rights Act protects employees against harassment in and away from the workplace, if harassment is based on one of the protected grounds and the incidents occur in connection with their employment.

When a supervisor harasses an employee, it is an abuse of authority and the employer may be held responsible. It is inappropriate behaviour that may deny equal employment opportunity to the employee who is harassed.

When a co-worker harasses another employee, the employer may be held responsible.

Harassment based on race and religious beliefs

These are all forms of harassment when they occur in the areas protected under the Act: derogatory comments, taunts, threats, jokes, teasing or jeering about race, colour, national or ethnic origins, or about adornments and rituals associated with cultural or religious beliefs.

Employers are legally responsible for actively discouraging and prohibiting humiliating conduct or language that results in one employee's working conditions being less favourable than another's.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination based on the ground of gender, including transgender, which is prohibited under the Alberta Human Rights Act. [1] Sexual harassment is any unwelcome sexual behaviour that adversely affects, or threatens to affect, directly or indirectly, a person's job security, working conditions or prospects for promotion or earnings; or prevents a person from getting a job, living accommodations or any kind of public service.

In Alberta, employers are responsible for maintaining a work environment free from sexual harassment for all employees, customers and clients.

An employer who neglects to follow up on a complaint of sexual harassment may be liable under the Alberta Human Rights Act for failing to take prompt and appropriate action.

Contact Wendy Ellen Inc. today for to develop a thorough understanding of harassment and its impact on your workforce.
Harassment is not new. What is new is a growing awareness of this serious problem in the workplace. Harassment can prove costly to employers through lost productivity, lost time through stress-related illnesses, frequent staff turnover and lowered staff morale.

Take the Time to Develop an Effective Harassment and Sexual Harassment Policy

Developing and implementing an effective workplace policy is key in preventing harassment. Education is also important. People have to know there is a policy and what it says. The employer's position on harassment should be contained in a clear policy statement, distributed to all employees, posted on bulletin boards and provided to all managers, supervisors and new employees.

At Wendy Ellen Inc. we recommend that a well-defined and clearly written policy should include the following elements:
  • Policy Statement
  • Definition of Harassment/Bullying
  • Definition of Sexual Harassment
  • Procedure for Dealing With Harassment
  • Internal Harassment Complaint Process
  • Responsibility of Management

Leadership is critical to any effective harassment policy. With a well developed policy, senior management has a chance to demonstrate a proud corporate commitment to fair and equal treatment of all employees.

Managers must take a lead role in reminding staff (in newsletters, annual reports, at meetings, etc.) that harassment is against company policy and the law.

Education is important in preventing sexual and other types of harassment. Everyone must know about the policy, and management must ensure staff at all levels are aware of the ongoing commitment to that policy. A sensitive policy also can serve to foster an understanding of the true nature of harassment and its destructive consequences. Remember: prevention is better than cure, and a policy prohibiting harassment can provide the basis for prevention.

Developing harassment policies requires detailed knowledge.

Contact Wendy Ellen Inc. for assistance today.


Coach's Corner: What An Effective Harassment Policy Does For Your Organization

Policies that work:

Encourage employees to come forward with complaints. How a policy sounds and is structured is important. Management has to demonstrate its commitment to eliminating all forms of harassment.

Ensure acceptance by all staff, unions and employee associations  when time is invested through consultation, input and feedback.

Provide a clear definition of harassment, as it relates to the protected areas and grounds in the Alberta Human Rights Act.

Include guidelines for individuals seeking advice about making a sexual or other type of harassment complaint.

Maintain confidentiality of complaints and protect employees from retaliation.

Designate a person or persons to hear complaints. These individuals should be viewed by other employees as neutral but as having the authority to act. If possible, have more than one person assigned to this important, sometimes emotionally-taxing, job.

Lay out the steps. Effective harassment policies provide a step-by-step description of what happens in the company when a complaint of harassment is made. To encourage prevention, also spell out the disciplinary consequences for harassing any employee.

Guarantee a fair and prompt reaction to anyone with a complaint of harassment.


Quick Reference: 
When Does Harassment Occur?

Harassment occurs when someone:

* makes unwelcome remarks or jokes about your race, religion, sex, age, disability or any other of the grounds of discrimination;

* threatens or intimidates you because of your race, religion, sex, age, disability or any other of the grounds of discrimination;

* makes unwelcome physical contact with you, such as touching, patting, or pinching.

The onus is on the person experiencing the harassment to inform the harasser that the behaviour is unwelcome.


Quick Reference: Examples of Harassment

Examples of harassment as outlined by the Alberta Human Rights Commission include:

* Verbal or physical abuse, threats, derogatory remarks, jokes, innuendo or taunts about appearance or beliefs.

* The display of pornographic, racist or offensive images.

* Practical jokes that result in awkwardness or embarrassment.

* Unwelcome invitations or requests, either indirect or explicit.

* Intimidation, leering or other objectionable gestures.

* Condescension or paternalism that undermines self-confidence.

* Unwanted physical contact such as touching, patting, pinching, punching and outright physical assault.

Quick Reference: Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is unwelcome sexual conduct. It includes any of the harassment examples listed in the Quick Reference section above when they are of a sexual nature. It is considered to be discrimination under the Alberta Human Rights Act.

Sexual harassment can include such things as pinching, patting, rubbing or leering, “dirty” jokes, pictures or pornographic materials, comments, suggestions, innuendoes, requests or demands of a sexual nature. The behaviour need not be intentional in order to be considered sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment is unwanted, often coercive, sexual behaviour directed by one person toward another. It is emotionally abusive and creates an unhealthy, unproductive atmosphere in the workplace. Sexual harassment in the workplace can be costly for employers in terms of financial costs and employee morale, particularly for employers who do not have an effective sexual harassment policy and who do not treat such complaints seriously.

Behaviour that is acceptable to both parties involved, such as flirtation, chit-chat or good-natured jesting, would not be considered sexual harassment.

Quick Reference: Key Messages From the Government of Canada Public Consultations on Harassement

* Online survey respondents reported that harassment was the most common type of behaviour, with 60% having experienced it.

* Sexual harassment was experienced by 30%, violence by 21% and sexual violence by 3%.

* Most respondents who experienced harassment, sexual harassment or violence in the past two years indicated that they experienced these behaviours more than once. Stakeholder consultations also highlighted the need to recognize that harassment is usually an ongoing pattern of behaviour.

* Half of the survey respondents said that they experienced the harassing or violent behaviour from an individual with authority over them, while 44% experienced the behaviour from a co-worker.

* Among respondents who experienced an incident in the past two years, men were more likely to have experienced harassment than women, and women were more likely to have experienced sexual harassment.  Women were also more likely to have experienced violence.

* Respondents who experienced sexual harassment tended to work in environments with a higher ratio of men in positions of power than respondents who experienced non-sexual harassment or violence.

* People with disabilities and members of a visible minority group were more likely to experience harassment than other groups.

About Wendy Ellen Inc.
Wendy Ellen Inc. specializes in providing human resource and benefits management skills to small to mid-sized companies on an as-needed basis. From recruitment, Human Resource policy development and legislative compliance, employee retention and engagement, individual advisor/coaching, succession planning to employee development and performance, Wendy Ellen Inc. will help you protect your most valuable resource, your people.
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