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Employment law: Harassment often goes unreported

An adviser of workplace conduct says the results of a federal survey indicate that a significant percentage of violence or harassment complaints in the workplace are not addressed and resolved.

All levels of government are concerned about the harassment, bullying and sexual violence that appears to be prevalent in workplaces across the country. The House of Commons recently passed amendments to the Canada Labour Code to establish clear frameworks for dealing with allegations and reports of harassment and violence in federally-governed workplaces. In addition, many claims related to harassment in British Columbia workplaces are handled by the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and WorkSafeBC.

Despite the legal mechanisms in place to assist workers, the fear of retaliation or job loss often stops British Columbia workers from reporting harassment. Of the respondents to the federal survey who experienced harassment and came forward, seventy-five percent said they faced obstacles in trying to resolve the issue.

Recent news coverage of sexual harassment in the entertainment industry as a result of #MeToo has underscored the trauma that workplace harassment can cause and the reluctance of victims to come forward. The key to resolving this issue is to empower and motivate staff to speak up when they are harassed, and to encourage co-workers to get involved and support those who have been the subject of workplace harassment or violence.

Along with the fear of retaliation, those who experience workplace harassment might find the process of standing up to supervisors or employers daunting. However, no one needs to fight these battles alone. A lawyer who is experienced in all matters related to employment law in British Columbia can provide support and guidance to employees through the process of filing a complaint and pursuing legal proceedings if necessary.

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