Harassment is any behaviour, whether physical, verbal, written, or otherwise, that is unwanted and unwelcomed and may offend or humiliate an individual. Harassment can be discrimination or abuse of various types. Often, harassment persists beyond the first incident and happens on multiple occasions. One time incidents may also be considered harassment.
If not properly addressed, harassment can lead to anxiety, stress, nervousness, and depression. It can also lead to violent situations and physical confrontations.
Workplace harassment affects everyone in the workplace. If left unchecked it can create poisoned workplaces that cause stress and anxiety to everyone. This may cause delays in work completion and can take some places of work a lot of time to recover from.
Everyone has a duty to prevent workplace harassment. Through education and training, everyone can prevent and stop workplace harassment from occurring in their workplace.
If harassment is not addressed it may become a criminal offence known as criminal harassment. Someone without lawful authority engaging in conduct that causes someone in the circumstance to reasonably fear for their safety, or the safety of anyone known to them, may have committed criminal harassment.
Things that cause fear for the safety of oneself or others that may constitute criminal harassment include:
Harassment can take place in many situations. It may happen in public, school, work, or at your home. With increasing amounts of social media, harassment can take shape in many forms. This can include but is not limited to:
One of the most important things is to do is to address harassment as quickly as possible. You may begin by confiding in someone you trust about your situation to help you cope with your issues
If in the workplace you can consider reporting the harassment to your supervisor or manager, or human resources department if there is one. If a manager is harassing you, you may wish to speak to a higher level employee, or different management to address the situation. If this is unavailable, consider speaking to a co-worker.
You may also wish to speak to, or write a letter to, the person harassing you explaining that this is inappropriate behaviour. This may resolve the conflict as the person may not know what they are doing is bothering you. This can be an effective means to stop the harassment.
Emergencies – If you believe that you are being threatened, are in immediate danger, or are in need of protection, emergency services should be contacted by calling 9-11.
If you do not feel the need to contact emergency services, you may wish to reach out to Victim Services.
Victim services has offices throughout Newfoundland and Labrador. A list of their offices is at the bottom of this page.
Alternative dispute resolution – Alternative dispute resolution uses various means to come to a proper conclusion. For example, approaching an employee who has been harassing you either personally, or in writing, advising them that the behaviour is unwelcome and inappropriate for their relationship. This may resolve the issue. Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is often cheaper and more efficient than going to court to resolve disputes.
Laying criminal charges – Harassment can be a criminal offence. Section 264 of the Criminal Code prohibits various forms of conduct that causes them to fear for their safety. People who contravene section 264 are guilty of either an indictable offence or an offence punishable on summary conviction.
If harassment escalates, it may be considered to be assault. Assault does not require physical contact or touching to qualify as a criminal act – the threat of harm can be enough if you believe it will happen. Assault is prohibited under section 265 of the Criminal Code.
If someone wishes to lay charges against someone for criminal harassment or assault they should contact their local police. The police will then conduct an investigation, and where reasonable grounds exist for a possible criminal offence may arrest the accused and charge them with a crime. This does not mean they are guilty of the offence, but that they may be tried in court for a crime.
Seeking to lay criminal charges may be an appropriate response to unwanted and unwelcomed behaviours and may be the best course of action to resolve conflict where alternative means to resolve the conflict have failed.
Civil lawsuits – Civil lawsuits are cases where one party seeks to sue another for either an action or inaction committed that relates to them. This could be for things such as battery or assault. An injury is required for a “cause of action” in tort. An injury does not need to be a physical injury, but can also be things such as psychological or emotional suffering. Courts make orders as to whether claims suffice to allow someone to sue another for compensation.
You may wish to seek to bring a claim against someone for harassment to compensate for your injury/injuries. The process of suing someone in court does not require a lawyer. However, lawyers are generally best equipped to understand and file any possible claims that may be made against an individual. The process of suing an individual can be costly and take many months or years to complete. Consider alternative measures to resolve your conflict. Often, court cases create more stress for individuals, and it is possible you may not even “win” your case.
Workplace harassment is any behaviour in a workplace that is unwanted or unwelcome. Harassment may be physical, sexual, verbal, written, or otherwise and may offend or humiliate a worker or group of workers.
Often workplace harassment persists beyond the first incident and happens on multiple occasions and may also occur outside the workplace. One-time incidents may also be considered harassment, whether at work or elsewhere.
If not properly addressed, workplace harassment can lead to stress, poor work performance, depression and “poisoned workplaces” for the worker or workers who experience it. This can cause individuals to become unable to perform their work and duties. It can also lead to violent situations and physical confrontations at the workplace, or outside the workplace.
Workplace harassment can create what are known as “poisoned” workplaces. Workplaces are called poisoned because they have stressed, tired, and depressed workers. Often, verbal and physical confrontation can occur in poisoned workplaces.
With poisoned workplaces, all employees are affected. This causes all employees to be unable to do their job and perform their duties as well as they normally could. Often employees may have to take time off work as a result of workplace harassment, for sick leave or stress leave.
Workplace harassment affects everyone emotionally, physically, and financially. If left unchecked it will create poisoned workplaces and continue to hurt employers and employees.
Workplace harassment can take place in many situations. It may happen when individuals are alone, in a private office, in front of co-workers, or outside of the workplace during or after office hours.
Some of these forms of workplace harassment may lead to criminal charges, but others may have different legal consequences, or also non-legal consequences as well. Some examples include, but are not limited to:
The Human Rights Commission can investigate and make findings related to complaints of violations of the Human Rights Act of the province, including whether an individual has been discriminated against. This may include discrimination on the basis of sex, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or other possible grounds.
If you believe you have been discriminated against, you must contact the Human Rights Commission within 12 months of the incident or within 12 months of the most recent incident if the harassment is on-going. You can speak to an investigator either via phone, e-mail, or in person at the Human Rights Commission office. There is no cost to the complainant to do so.
It is possible that the alleged complaint may not be accepted as a complaint. This may be done for various reasons, and it does not mean that they do not believe you. It may simply be a situation where there is not enough evidence to make a successful complaint.
The Human Rights Commission may want you to seek mediation with a lawyer or mediator. Mediation is available for parties to come to a timely decision and help both parties understand the root of the problem, while coming to acceptable solutions. Parties do not have to agree to mediation, and parties can have legal representation at mediation meetings. If no agreement is made, the matter will return to the Human Rights Investigator to continue investigating the complaint.
Claims may be appealed after the decision to the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador Trial Division by either party. This must be done within 30 days of receiving the order from the Board of Inquiry.
As an employer, it is important to consider all options to prevent and stop workplace harassment. There are numerous ways to help stop this problem. These include, but are not limited to:
Employees often see workplace harassment before management. It is an employee’s duty to help report inappropriate behaviours that may become workplace harassment. Some things employees can do include, but are not limited to: