There are many, many responses to workplace sexual harassment. Not all options are open to all workers, but all workers have options. Depending on your individual circumstances and desired outcomes, you can pursue available options that best suit your needs. These options are discussed in detail elsewhere on the site but this brief overview can help you navigate options for responding to workplace sexual harassment.
Informal Workplace Complaint – All workers can choose to confront the harasser directly or talk to their employer or supervisor. Unionized workers can also go to their union for help.
Grievances – Unions may move forward with a grievance. Only the union can decide whether to file a grievance, but they must represent workers fairly when making this decision.
Occupational Health & Safety Complaint (OHS) - Workers who have experienced harassment as defined by OHS legislation and/or retribution or retaliation because they complained can file an OHS complaint. There are processes in place for both federal and provincial workers under federal or provincial OHS laws. Workers must still be employed at the workplace where the incident happened.
Human Rights Complaint – Workers who have been discriminated against contrary to human rights laws can make a complaint to the Human Rights Commission. There are processes in place for both federal and provincial workers under federal or provincial human rights laws.
Workers' Compensation Claim (WCB)- Workers who have been psychologically or physically injured by workplace sexual harassment and need time off to recover and/or have medical or counselling costs may choose to make a claim to WCB. The workplace must be one that is covered under Workers’ Compensation but can be a federal or provincial workplace.
Criminal Complaints – Any worker who has experienced workplace sexual harassment that is criminal in nature, or believes that they may have, can report the matter to the police.
Civil Complaints – Suing you harasser and/or employer may be an option for some workers in some circumstances.
Arbitration - When a union has made a grievance on behalf of a worker and the matter is not resolved under the collective agreement, the union can decide to have the matter determined by an Arbitrator.
Labour Relations Board – Workers who feel that their union has not represented them fairly through the complaint process can appeal the matter to the Labour Relations Board.
It is important to be mindful of limitation periods that apply. For example, human rights complaints must be filed within 12 months of the incident, while most civil suits must be commenced within two years.
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.