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Employment law: What constitutes harassment?

Employers in British Columbia have an obligation to provide safe workplace environments in which employees can be free of harassment. But what constitutes harassment? Harassment can include situations where an employee is subjected to unwanted verbal or physical conduct that humiliates, degrades or offends him or her. Under employment law, it is classified as a type of discrimination.

Although harassment complaints typically involve such behaviour occurring over a period of time, a single and serious occurrence may also be considered harassment. It occurs when unwelcome remarks are made about an individual’s religion, age, sex, disability, race or other discriminating grounds as defined by human rights legislation. Harassment can include threats, intimidation, unwelcome touching, or other manners of physical contact.

Victims of harassing behaviour may fear retribution, but it is important to report any form of workplace harassment. For purposes of having records of reports made, it would likely be best to follow the company’s procedures for filing grievances. If the victim is a union member, it may be wise to report the incident to the union representative.

British Columbia workers may not realize that they are entitled to discuss the harassment with an experienced employment law lawyer. A lawyer examine the allegations and explain the employee’s rights along with the appropriate procedures to follow. 

Source: chrc-ccdp.gc.ca, “What is harassment?”, Accessed on Aug 12, 2017

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