25% of Canadians Found Management Unresponsive to Sexual Harassment Reports

By Mana Tulberg

Read the latest edition of Business Review Canada!

A recent poll released by the Angus Reid Institute showed 43 percent of Canadian women have been sexually harassed at work.  Workplace sexual harassment exists across Canada and it is not gender-specific. The same report revealed that 12 percent of Canadian men have also experienced harassment at work or at a work related function. For its poll, the institute randomly chose 1,504 Canadian adults who are currently working or who at one point worked outside of the home.

There are many definitions of sexual harassment. However, according to Canada Labour Code, sexual harassment can be in the form of:

  • Conduct
  • Words
  • Gestures
  • Physical contact of a sexual nature: 14% of those harassed told the Angus Reid Institute that the experience ranged from sexual touching to more serious unwanted sexual contact. 

Unfortunately, the report shows that 4 in 5 respondents prefer not to report harassment incidents to their employers citing embarrassment by what happened, fear of harming their career and losing their job.

Business owners have an obligation and responsibility to provide a safe and harassment-free work environment.  Any harassment conducted by an employee is unfailingly reflected on the employer.  Having an anti-harassment policy and providing anti-harassment training to your staff can help avoid such unwanted situations.

As a business owner the Canadian Human Rights Commission holds you responsible for the followings:

  • Promoting a harassment-free work environment and setting an example about appropriate workplace behavior.
  • Disclosing to all the process for investigating and resolving harassment complaints.
  • Whether or not a harassment complaint has been made, dealing with harassment situations immediately upon becoming aware of them.
  • Taking appropriate action during a harassment investigation
  • Ensuring harassment situations are dealt with in a sensitive and confidential manner.

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The Angus Reid Institute study shows that three-quarters of Canadians believe workplace sexual harassment needs to be given more attention, but the numbers vary gender. One third of men say sexual harassment is overblown, while just 16% of women express that viewpoint.

Harassment in the workplace not only impacts the targeted individual, but also can have an expensive litigation impact on your business.

Don’t be one of the 25% dismissive employers in this survey. Remember, awareness, communication, training, and early intervention are key to a harassment-free work environment. 

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