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What Is Considered Sexual Harassment in The Workplace

Sexual harassment in the workplace is something that all employers and employees should be aware of to keep working environments safe and equitable for all. Though you have likely heard of and understand that sexual harassment is a problem, you may have questions about what constitutes sexual harassment and how sexual harassment can be prevented in the workplace.

At Soni Law Firm, we are dedicated to helping you understand and protect your rights as an employee. In this post, we outline what you should know about sexual harassment in the workplace and how you can seek help if you are experiencing any form of sexual harassment at work.

If you feel your employer isn’t doing enough to prevent or stop sexual harassment in your workplace, do not hesitate in reaching out to one of the expert sexual harassment lawyers on our team. We would be pleased to discuss your concerns through a free consultation.

What Is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination based on sex. In the workplace, sexual harassment is especially harmful as it can make it impossible for a person to earn a living or do their job effectively. It may also contribute to a poisoned workplace environment for all workers.

In Ontario, employers have a duty to take steps to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace and ensure the workplace respects human rights. This means that employers must have procedures in place to deal with discrimination or harassment, must respond to complaints and treat complaints seriously. A clear anti-sexual harassment policy that everyone in the workplace is aware of is a first step in preventing workplace sexual harassment and all employers should have one in place.

What Is Considered Sexual Harassment?

When it comes to understanding what is considered sexual harassment in the workplace it may be helpful to consider examples of sexual harassment. Some of the many ways sexual harassment in the workplace can take place includes the following.

  • Repeatedly asking for dates and refusing “no” as an answer
  • Asking for sex in exchange for a benefit or favour
  • Demanding hugs
  • Making unnecessary physical contact and unwanted touching
  • Using rude comments about men or women
  • Using sex-specific derogatory names
  • Commenting on a person’s physical characteristic or actions in a sex-related manner
  • Posting or sharing pornographic images
  • Making sexual jokes
  • Bragging about sexual prowess

Can Sexual Harassment Be Verbal?

Sexual harassment can be verbal and may come in the form of jokes or unwelcome comments. Though sexual harassment is often verbal, it is not the only type of sexual harassment, and all types of harassment must be taken seriously. It is important to note that sexual harassment does not need to be directed at an individual in a one-on-one setting to be considered harassment.

Who Can Help Me if I am Being Sexually Harassed at Work?

If you have been wondering what to do when someone is sexually harassing you at work, you have a few options to consider. If it is safe for you to do so, you can speak to your employer about the sexual harassment you are experiencing in the workplace. In some cases, this may be impossible to do, especially when the harasser is a manager or authority figure within the workplace. You may be able to report the harassment to the human resources department of your company or if you are unionized, report the harassment to your union representative.

Your employer cannot punish you for reporting sexual harassment. Though it is a difficult issue to bring up, your employer has a duty to keep you safe. If you report sexual harassment to your employer and feel you are being punished for doing so you may wish to speak to a constructive dismissal lawyer or lawyer experienced in addressing issues that arise after reporting sexual harassment in the workplace.

What Are the Consequences of Sexual Harassment for Harassers?

Reporting sexual harassment can be a difficult thing to do. You may be wondering, what are the consequences of sexual harassment at work, and want to know what will happen after you file a report. You deserve to feel safe in your workplace. Your employer has a duty to investigate your sexual harassment report and is required to provide you with the results of their investigation.
When the investigation has concluded your employer must also inform you of what they will do to stop the harassment and prevent it from happening again. Some of the solutions your employer may consider are to move the harasser to a different work location, provide sexual harassment training, move you to a safe environment away from the harasser, support you with therapy costs and potentially fire the harasser.

You may not feel that enough is being done to stop the sexual harassment or may have concerns with how the investigation was handled. If you feel that your employer is not living up to their responsibilities it is a good idea to discuss your situation with an experienced employment lawyer.

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About Post Author


Rahul founded Soni Law Firm, a boutique employment, labour, and human rights law firm, with the goal of taking his Downtown Toronto litigation experience and making it accessible to Ontario’s Main Street employees and employers.