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Employers

The Occupational Health and Safety Act and Regulations set out the responsibilities of employers when it comes to preventing and addressing workplace sexual harassment. One of the most important responsibilities is worker safety.

Employers in Ontario have a legal obligation to provide a safe, healthy and respectful workplace, including preventing and addressing workplace sexual harassment. 

Employers must also comply with the Ontario Human Rights Code, which protects workers from discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, gender, and gender identity in employment.

Why should Employers address/be concerned about workplace sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment can negatively impact the workplace and lead to:

  • Increased worker absenteeism
  • Increased tension in the workplace
  • Higher employer-related health care costs
  • Decreased productivity
  • Low morale
  • Legal expenses for responding to sexual harassment claims
  • Reputational harm

Studies have shown that having a positive and healthy work environment makes workers happier, increases productivity and profitability, and creates a respected public image.


What can Employers do?

Workplace safety is more than just ensuring everyone is physically safe; it also includes the prevention and elimination of workplace sexual harassment. Here are some tips for ensuring a safe workplace for all.


Create a Harassment Policy and Program

A clear and comprehensive sexual harassment policy helps employers reduce and prevent workplace sexual harassment. 

Policies educate workers, managers, volunteers, consultants and others in the workplace about their rights, roles, and responsibilities in preventing and addressing workplace sexual harassment.

Employers must:

  • Have a workplace sexual harassment policy and program
  • Review and update the policy at a minimum yearly
  • Provide regular training for all staff on the policy and program
  • Investigate sexual harassment as soon as they are aware, even if there is no complaint made
  • Have a process for workers to report harassment, including reporting to someone other than a supervisor, when the supervisor is the alleged harasser

The policy must:

  • Protect the confidentiality of parties involved in an investigation 
  • Explain how the outcome of the investigation will be shared
  • Explain how any decisions about corrective action will be communicated
  • Set out the process for making/filing a complaint for those who experience and who witness sexual harassment

All harassment policies and procedures must be in writing, accessible to workers, and regularly updated. 

For sample policies, click here 

Training and open dialogue

Regular training for workers on sexual harassment policies and procedures ensures that workers know the steps for making and resolving complaints. 

Managers should be prepared to receive and respond to complaints about sexual harassment.

Training should occur at least once a year and anytime someone returns to work after a leave/absence, has changed roles, or there is a new hire.

Workers who have been trained are better able to: 

  • Identify workplace sexual harassment 
  • Understand their rights and responsibilities
  • Decrease victim blaming
  • Help through bystander intervention
  • Promote a safe working environment for all

Being proactive by properly educating your workers on workplace sexual harassment will help limit harm, reduce liability and promote equity and diversity goals in the workplace. Proactive education and training make good business sense.

Contact us for more information on free training on workplace sexual harassment.


What are your obligations as an employer?

The Courts have established several factors that it considers when determining if an employer has met its legal obligations for responding to and addressing workplace sexual harassment, including but not limited to:

  • Was there a procedure in place at the time of an incident to deal with discrimination and harassment;
  • How quickly did the organization respond to the complaint
  • How seriously was the complaint treated
  • Were resources made available to deal with the complaint
  • Did the organization provide a healthy environment for the person who complained
  • Did the employer advise the complainant of the outcome of the complaint

 


This website is for general information purposes only.  Please contact your local legal clinic for advice about your situation

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