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What to Do if Faced With Sexual Harassment at Work

Workplace harassment is a difficult situation to navigate. It’s your decision how you’d like to proceed, and we’ve listed steps you can take after or during an incident.

Sexual harassment occurring in the workplace is an extremely distressing situation that no one should face. It’s challenging to know what to do, and without a clear support system or resources, navigating the route you want to take can be even more confusing. It is solely your decision on how you’d like to proceed and we support you in whichever path you are most comfortable choosing. We’ve listed a few steps you can take after or during an ongoing occurrence of sexual harassment.  


Keep a Log 

If you choose to seek legal action it can be really helpful to have a written log of everything that took place. This includes comments made, sexual advances, physical actions, the date and time if you can remember, and any witnesses. If this is or was an ongoing occurrence, document each time, the incident occurred. You can keep the details inside a password protected notes app or use the one that comes with one of your technological devices (the links with instructions for that will be listed below). You can also have events written on paper as backup. Just ensure that it’s as kept in a safe space that you won’t forget and never left at the place of work. It’s also advised that you don’t use a work computer for tracking, especially if it’s not under your ownership and is kept in the office when you’re not there. 

Quick Tip: Use these seven ‘W’ questions when writing your log of what happened.

  • Who was it?
  • Who saw it? 
  • Where was it? 
  • When was it? 
  • What was said/done? 
  • What did you do?

Setting Up Password Protected Notes:

Gather Evidence 

If the harassment has also been done virtually through social media, text messaging or email, take screenshots, print them, and keep them in a safe space where all your logs are kept. You can also hide photos within your device’s notes section, which is previously explained above. Ultimately, having all your information in one specific document can make things a lot easier. Printing is also advised if files get deleted or your device gets stolen, so keep any images in the same spot you have the written logs, and remember not to leave or bring them to your place of work. 

Inform Your Employer or Human Resources Representative

We understand that your employer could be the perpetrator and if so, disregard this next point (we will give guidance on what to do in that case next). However, if they are someone you feel you can confide in with this issue, report what happened to them. Your employer has a legal duty to protect their workers and ensure a safe environment to work in. You can also take this issue up with HR, who also has an obligation to provide assistance in accordance with your situation.

Contact your Ministry of Labour 

If your employer or human resources team does nothing about the incident you reported, or they are the actual perpetrator, try filing a complaint with your province’s Ministry of Labour. We’ve placed the links with your province’s Ministry of Labour for you to file a complaint. 

Seek Legal Advice

Speaking with a legal expert to understand your options can be beneficial. However, we realize that this isn’t a cheap option. Thankfully, there are free 30 minute consultations where you can have more guidance on proceeding next. For example, if you’ve reported the incident to your employer but nothing was done, a lawyer or paralegal would be of reasonable assistance. Here is a link to the Law Society Referral Service.

Begin a New Job Search

You shouldn’t have to switch jobs. It is not your fault that you’re uncomfortable at work, and it is not fair that you have to be the one who leaves. However, departing from your place of employment could be what is best for your well-being and mental health, and we wholeheartedly support you in that decision. If nothing is done after you file a report, it can also be best to begin work in a new environment that you could hopefully feel more comfortable in. There’s no shame or guilt in leaving because what matters the most is your ability to thrive and feel safe no matter what.

The Canadian Provinces Ministries of Labour (complaint section) 

Ontario
British Columbia
Quebec
Alberta
Prince Edward Island
Manitoba
New Brunswick
Newfoundland and Labrador
Northwest Territories
Nova Scotia
Nunavut
Saskatchewan

Resources:
https://www.ontario.ca/page/understand-law-workplace-violence-and-harassment
https://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/hs/pubs/fs_wvh_atwork.php
https://www.forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2016/07/13/what-to-do-if-youre-being-sexually-harassed-at-work/?sh=29c0a84d340f

Written by: Taryn Herlich

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