Occupational health and safety laws recognize that any unwelcome behaviour of a sexual nature is sexual harassment.
Workplace sexual harassment almost always negatively impacts those who experience it. A Statistics Canada Study about workplace sexual harassment found that those who have experienced it were more likely to feel that life was stressful, more likely not to be in good mental and physical health, and less likely to have an optimistic view of the future.
The Saskatchewan Employment Act definition of harassment includes any conduct, comment, display, action or gesture of a sexual nature that the harasser knew or should have reasonably known was unwelcome.
The fact that the harasser knew or should have known that the behaviour was unwanted is enough to establish sexual harassment. Unlike other types of harassment, it is not necessary to show that it has had a negative effect on the person being sexually harassed or that it is threat to that person's health or safety.
The Saskatchewan Employment Act also includes two other definitions of harassment.
Harassment is any inappropriate conduct, comment, display, action or gesture that is directed at a person because of things such as their race, disability, physical size, weight, sex or sexual orientation.
Harassment is also any inappropriate conduct, comment, display, action or gesture that negatively affects a worker’s psychological or physical well-being and that the harasser knows or ought to have known would cause the worker to feel humiliated or intimidated. In this case the behaviour must be repeated or ongoing or serious enough that it has a lasting, harmful effect on the worker.
In either of these cases, unlike when there is sexual harassment, the behaviour must also constitute a threat to the health or safety of the worker.
For those working in a federally regulated business, the Canada Labour Code defines harassment or violence as any action, conduct or comment, including of a sexual nature, that can reasonably be expected to cause offence, humiliation or other physical or psychological injury or illness to an employee.
It is important to remember that workplace harassment can occur outside of the office or the work site during conferences, social events or when making business calls to a client’s business or home. It is also important to know that it does not have to be directed at anyone specifically to be workplace harassment. A poster that a co-worker has in their office or a conversation between two employees that another employee hears can be the basis for a harassment complaint as long as it meets the definition of harassment.
This site provides general information about workplace sexual harassment only. It is not a substitute for receiving legal advice about your situation. Apply now to receive 4 hours of free legal advice.