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Definition of Harassment

Occupational health and safety laws, designed to protect workers' well-being, focus on harassment that threatens a worker's health or safety.

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 does not specifically define sexual harassment but does define 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.

Approximately 95% of occupational health and safety complaints about harassment involve allegations about this type of harassment.

In either case, 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.

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The Shift Project is funded by the Department of Justice and delivered by the Public Legal Education Association of Saskatchewan (PLEA).