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Workers

Who is protected?

  • Someone who performs work or supplies services for monetary compensation
  • Persons who work or provide services to an employer for no money (co-op students/interns)
  • Volunteers
  • Temporary or casual workers
  • Probationary employees
  • Contract workers

If you believe you have been sexually harassed at work, contact your local community legal centre.

Some options are available to all workers, whereas other options depend on whether your work is provincially or federally regulated.

If you are harassed at work and believe that another protected ground (race, religion, age, disability, etc.) is a factor, make sure to share this when you seek legal advice, as some legal options will take these factors into account.


What can I do?

Keep a Record

We suggest you keep a record even if you are unsure what you want to do about the harassment. Keep this information somewhere safe outside of your workplace.

 

You should:

  • Keep a record of the who, what, where, and when related to the harassment, including any witness names and contact information
  • Ask witnesses to write statements about what they saw and heard
  • Keep all written correspondence about the incident with the harasser, employer, or anyone else involved
  • Get copies of any videos, audio recordings, text messages, or photographs that may be available to you

You can still make a complaint even if you do not have any records. Contact your local community legal centre for more information.

What can I do if I witness sexual harassment?

Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, workers have a duty to report a health and safety concern in the workplace to their supervisor or employer. Sexual harassment can be considered a health and safety issue because it can create a toxic work environment. For more information on how to report or provide assistance to a colleague experiencing sexual harassment, contact us today.

 


Options for Provincially-Regulated Workers

Please note:  There are deadlines for many of these actions. If you pursue some options, it might prevent you from choosing other options.  Some options involve costs.  Please talk to a lawyer for free advice about what actions are best for you.

As a worker in Ontario, you have a right to a safe workplace, free of all forms of sexual harassment.  Laws such as the Occupational Health and Safety Act, the Employment Standards Act and the Ontario Human Rights Code apply to your work.

You have the right to:

  • A workplace harassment policy that addresses sexual harassment
  • Training on the workplace harassment policy
  • A process to report harassment
  • A process for investigating harassment
  • Protection from reprisal for having reported sexual harassment
  • Privacy during any investigation
  • Know the outcome of the investigation and any corrective action taken in writing

 

Call the Ministry of Labour (MOL)

If your employer:

  • Has no sexual harassment policy or procedure
  • Has no policies about sexual harassment in the workplace or
  • Does not investigate the complaint

 

The Ministry will assign an investigator who will:

  • Review the employer’s sexual harassment policies
  • Review the employer’s investigation (if any) to determine if the policy was followed
  • Make recommendations to the employer about improving their policies, procedures and training with respect to harassment.
  • If the investigator determines that there was no policy and/or investigation, the investigator may make an order requiring the employer to create a policy or conduct an investigation.

 

Make an Application to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO)

The Human Rights Code provides that sexual harassment in employment is considered discrimination. An employer may be liable if they fail to prevent or address sexual harassment.

You have one year from the date of the last incident to apply to the HRTO.

The HRTO can order:

  • Damages (money) for injury to your dignity and self-respect
  • Reimbursement of expenses and lost income
  • Better policies and training.

Options for Federally-Regulated Workers

Different laws apply depending on whether your work is provincially or federally regulated.

Most workplaces are regulated by the province.  If your work does not fall under a federally regulated industry, it is likely provincially regulated.  If you are not sure, please contact your local community legal clinic to ask.

Federally regulated workplaces include:

  • Banks
  • Transportation (airports, airlines, railways, interprovincial busing and trucking, ports)
  • Some on reserve employment (this requires legal advice about the specific situation)
  • Most Crown Corporations (Canada Post)
  • Federal workers
  • Shipping
  • Telecommunications
  • Some mining

As a Federally regulated employee, you are protected under the Canada Labour Code and the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Federal employers must:

  • Create a workplace harassment and violence policy
  • Assess the risk of harassment and violence in the workplace
  • Inform and train workers on the harassment policy
  • Train managers, supervisors, and employers on the harassment policy
  • Resolve any complaint of harassment or violence
  • Support complainants throughout the complaint process

 

File an application with the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC)

The Canadian Human Rights Act recognizes that every employee is entitled to employment free of sexual harassment.

There are timelines for bringing an application, you should seek legal advice before filing an application.

 

Options for All Workers

Please note:  There are deadlines for many of these actions. If you pursue some options, it might prevent you from choosing other options.  Some options involve costs.  Please talk to a lawyer for free advice about what actions are best for you.

Tell your supervisor/HR Department about the harassment

Every workplace in Ontario should have a policy about reporting sexual harassment.

Read your workplace anti-harassment policy and follow the steps for reporting harassment in the policy.

If your workplace has a form for reporting harassment, use it.

If there is no policy, make a written complaint to your supervisor or the human resources department. Keep a copy of the complaint letter and make sure to date it.

You should include:

  • the name of all parties involved
  • witnesses to the harassment
  • the date, time, and location of the harassment
  • any evidence you have gathered includes texts, emails, witness statements, and audio or video recordings

 

Address it with the harasser

If you feel safe doing so, let the harasser know that their behaviour is making you feel uncomfortable. If possible, do this in writing and/or in front of a witness so you will be able to prove that the person knew that their behaviour was unwanted.

If the behaviour continues, you could send them a text, email, letter or some other form of written communication that they have repeatedly behaved in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable and ask them to stop.

File a grievance with your union 

If you are a union member, consider filing a grievance about the sexual harassment.

A union representative may be able to help you with the complaint and ensure that an investigation takes place.

Contact the Police

If you have been sexually assaulted, physically assaulted or are being stalked by the harasser, you can call the police.

Your local sexual assault centre may be able to provide support during this process.

File a claim with WSIB

If you need medical or psychological treatment because you were sexually harassed at work, you should seek legal advice on filing a WSIB claim.

Claims in Superior Court (SC)/Small Claims Court (SCC)

You can make a claim in small claims or superior court against your employer and/or the harasser related to the sexual harassment you experienced.

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

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