What can I do if I’m being harassed?achkarlaw-admin
No one enjoys being the target of harassment or bullying, especially if it goes on for a long time. Harassment can happen anywhere from the street to the workplace, and it can happen to just about anyone.
If you are dealing with harassment, you may feel concerned or have questions about you’re your legal rights and what you should do. For example, who should you talk to about it in the workplace? What to do if it is your boss or direct superior who is harassing you? When you are in a situation where you feel uncomfortable, making these kinds of decisions can be difficult.
This article will give you an overview of the several types of harassment, as well as the first steps in dealing with a harassment situation.
What is harassment?
In Canada, harassment can be both criminal and non-criminal. This means that some types of harassment if they go far enough, could result in a criminal charge in an Ontario court. However, criminal charges are usually reserved for the most extreme cases.
In the Canadian Criminal Code, criminal harassment is defined as consisting of:
- Following the person, or the person’s close contact or relation, from place to place;
- Repeatedly trying to contact or communicate with the person, or that person’s close contact or relation;
- The act of watching, stalking, or repeatedly visiting the home, workplace, or place where that person, or their close contact or relation, frequents often; and
- Threatening that person, or someone who the person knows or is a close contact of.
As well, five elements of the offense must be met:
- The harasser must have engaged in the conduct described above;
- The person making the accusation must have been “harassed”;
- The harasser must have known that the other person was being harassed;
- The person being harassed must have feared for their safety; and
- Their fear must be reasonable.
If harassment is found to be criminal, the harasser could face a criminal conviction if proven guilty by a Canadian court.
But not all harassment is charged in a criminal court. Some people may choose to charge their harasser in civil court if they are already using them, or if they don’t want to get involved with a criminal case.
In an Ontario civil court, harassment is defined by these elements:
- Outrageous conduct committed by the harasser;
- Emotional distress caused by the harasser;
- The person being harassed has suffered emotional distress; and
- The emotional distress can be tied back to the harm done by the harasser.
Essentially, what the law is saying is that harassment must be clearly committed either intentionally or recklessly by the harasser. As well, the emotional harm that was suffered from the harassment must be proved.
Outside of the workplace, harassment can look like a number of different things, including someone targeting another person through constant surveillance, or by repeatedly following them.
In the workplace, harassment can take many forms, but it will usually involve conduct or comments that are unwanted and that are known to cause distress.
Harassment in the workplace
Harassment in the workplace can look like a variety of different things. It might take the form of discriminatory harassment where a person faces adverse treatment based on race or gender from a boss or colleague, or it could take the form of inappropriate sexual advances from a boss or colleague, as well as many others.
According to Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), harassment in the workplace is defined as:
- Vexatious comments or conduct toward a worker in a workplace that is known to be unwelcome; or
- Workplace sexual harassment.
In 2018, Canada revised the law on workplace harassment, requiring employers to consider how they would tackle the issue. In 2020, the law was updated again, requiring employers to have more responsibilities around harassment.
Workplace harassment can take place in an office, virtually working from home, and even though communication and encounters outside of work hours.
Unfortunately, sexual harassment does happen both in and out of workplace. Since the workplace is where many people spend most of their day, it is a particular area of concern as harassment can easily become a pattern.
Sexual harassment is considered to be a form of discrimination based on the definition of sex in the Ontario Human Rights Code.
Sexual harassment might include:
- Vexatious comments or conduct based on someone’s sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression, where the comments or conduct are known to be unwelcome; or
- Making a sexual solicitation or advance where the person making the solicitation or advance is in a position of power in the workplace over the person being harassed. The conduct should also be known to be unwelcome.
What should I do?
If you believe that you are experiencing harassment in or out of the workplace, the first thing that you should do is keep all evidence that you have of someone harassing you. That might include messages, emails, phone calls, or other physical signs of the other person harassing you. These items will help you in your effort to prove that the other person has been harassing you and that the harassment caused you distress.
Once you have collected what you can to show that you are being harassed, you should contact a qualified lawyer. A lawyer can help you determine what your next steps should be.
Being harassed can lead to feelings of confusion, concern, and unease. Harassment can happen anywhere, including in a workplace, and it can lead to extreme emotional distress. The best thing to do when you are being harassed is to record any instances of harassment from the person who is harassing you and to seek help.
If you believe that you are experiencing discrimination, be sure to reach out to a qualified lawyer at Achkar Law for more information.
If you are experiencing harassment in or out of the workplace, our team of experienced workplace lawyers at Achkar Law can help. Contact us by phone toll-free at 1 (800) 771-7882 or email us at [email protected], and we will be happy to assist.
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