Workplace Harassment and Discrimination Issues

Lynne Bubic, B.A., L.L.B. Harassment Prevention Officer Brock University

‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ Defining the Problem Causes, Conditions and Triggers Costs, Consequences and Effects Case Studies Prevention is Key Practical Considerations Questions?

Defining the problem
Working definitions vs. legal definitions Sources of definitions
Federal law, provincial law, employer policies

Types and grounds

Rights and Responsibilities
‡ We each have the right to work/study in an environment free of harassment and discrimination that values our individuality and differences. ‡ We have a corresponding responsibility to include and respect others, and not to engage in harassing or discriminating behaviour.

Harassment is
‡ Unwanted, uninvited or unwelcome behaviour or comments that impacts on someone else by making them uncomfortable, afraid, intimidated, or upset. ‡ May be one incident or an ongoing pattern of behaviour ‡ Does not require an intention to harass or offend ‡ Often an abuse of social power

Discrimination is
‡ Differential treatment of an individual or group which is based on a personal characteristic of that person or group (ex. Gender, race, creed, disability) and which has an adverse impact on them ‡ May be personal or systemic

Legal Definitions
‡ Conduct must meet definition to seek action or redress under legislation or policies ‡ Higher threshold than working definition ‡ Ontario Human Rights Code:
± Harassment: engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct that is known or ought reasonably be known to be unwelcome

‡ Employer policies (formal definitions)

Types and Grounds
‡ OHRC: race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, gender identification, sexual orientation, age, marital status, family status, and disability ‡ Workplace Harassment/Bullying ‡ Hostile/Poisoned Work Environment ‡ Online Harassment

Examples of Harassment
‡ Unwanted, unwelcome and/or offensive physical contact, including blocking movement, threatening gestures, and touching ‡ Unwanted, unwelcome and/or offensive comments, language, insults, rumours, ridiculing, jokes or threats ‡ Display of visual material (pictures, posters, graffiti, cartoons) that is offensive, insulting or demeaning

Examples of Harassment
‡ Persistent following or stalking within the workplace, to and from work, or elsewhere ‡ Unwanted, unwelcome and/or offensive phone calls, voice mails, online contact or e-mails ‡ Unfair treatment, singling someone out, or exclusion on the basis of protected grounds

Causes, Conditions and Triggers
In your group, develop a list of causes, conditions and triggers for harassment in the workplace. Consider three levels: - individual - team/department - organization Be prepared to share your answers with the group.

Cost to the Individual
‡ Increased stress, decreased productivity ‡ Low morale, low self esteem, fear, anger, anxiety, depression ‡ Illness and increased sick time ‡ Loss of personal safety and security ‡ Family/marital breakdown

Cost to the Employer
‡ Loss of productivity, creativity, effective team functioning ‡ Increased absenteeism and health benefits costs ‡ Increased staff turnover and difficulty attracting new staff ‡ Liability for harassment/discrimination suits ‡ Violence in the workplace

Case Studies

Preventing Harassment and Discrimination
‡ Respect others, include others, learn about and understand others ‡ Object to harassment when you see it or experience it state how uncomfortable it makes you feel and how inappropriate it is ‡ Be aware that your behaviour, if unwelcome, can harass others even if this was not your intention ‡ Refuse to go along with harassment masked as humour or academic debate ‡ Choose not to share words, jokes or comments of a discriminatory nature that may hurt or offend others

Preventing Harassment and Discrimination
‡ Listen to and offer support to anyone who is being harassed and help others to modify inappropriate behaviour ‡ Be aware of your position of power and privilege and use it responsibly ‡ Practice prevention model appropriate behaviour; open discussion of the issues; don t touch people without permission; think before you speak ‡ Know your responsibilities and educate yourself on the issues find out what policies exist

Practical Considerations
‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ Terms of employment Job/performance evaluation Working within a team Providing customer service Employment references, networking contacts Stay well within a working definition

For more information
‡ Brock s Harassment Prevention Office
± ± Decew Residence, Room 221 ± 905-688-5550, Ext. 4019 ±

‡ Ontario Human Rights Commission
± ± 1-800-387-9080

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