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Sexual harassment is any objectionable or offensive behaviour of a sexual nature that is known, or should reasonably be known, to be unwelcome. It can be intentional, or unintentional.

Sexual harassment can happen anywhere. It can be face-to-face, by phone, or online.

Sexual harassment can negatively affect a person’s feeling of self-worth and cause mental health issues.

When it happens at work, it can negatively affect someone’s ability to do their job, and the negative feelings it creates can follow women who are on the receiving end home from work.

Anyone can be the harasser, and anyone can be harassed. But statistically speaking, women are more likely to be harassed.

Sexual harassment doesn’t discriminate – it can affect anyone, regardless of gender, sexual identity, race, ethnicity, age, disability, income level, etc.

Sexual harassment is usually a pattern of behaviour as opposed to a single, isolated incident. But if a single action would be considered severe or extreme to a reasonable person, it can be considered sexual harassment.

Left unchecked, sexual harassment can cause someone to fear for their safety. It can cross the line into a criminal offense known as criminal harassment, or even into sexual assault.

“No sex jokes, sexting, touching, or invading my space.”

Workplace Harassment

Employment-related sexual harassment can happen outside the workplace and after working hours. Anyone can report workplace sexual harassment. There’s a role for employers to establish a policy, train their employees to understand what constitutes sexual harassment, learn how to prevent it, and how to step in and stop it.

So what kind of behaviours make up sexual workplace harassment? Sexual comments. Displaying or sharing sexual images. Spreading rumours about someone’s sexual behaviour or sexual identity. Stalking. Promising something in return for sex. Suggestive comments, gestures, and the like. Unwelcome comments about someone’s appearance. Unwelcome touching of any kind. Questioning someone’s sexual history, preferences, partners, etc. Sending messages, pictures, or videos of a sexual nature, or asking someone to send you sexual messages, pictures, or video.

The following behaviours might not be sexual harassment. Feedback about your work. Discipline related to your work performance. Choice of work tasks assigned to you. Consensual flirting, teasing, etc. Consensual office relationships.

What to do if you’re sexually harassed at work

If you have an HR manager, report it to them. Give details – when, who, what, and any witnesses or other evidence (e.g., texts or emails).

If you don’t have an HR manager, report it to your supervisor. If the supervisor is your harasser, report to another supervisor – preferably one who is superior to them. If the highest level supervisor or the owner is the harasser, you can report to a lower level supervisor or file a complaint with the Human Rights Commission.

Sometimes, the situation can be resolved by telling the harasser, either personally or in writing, that they behaviour is inappropriate and unacceptable.

Sometimes a mediator (either from inside your organization or outside) can be used to try to resolve the situation.

Some of the possible consequences for workplace harassment are the harasser being required to apologise, or being required to attend training on appropriate workplace behaviour.

SOURCE: https://publiclegalinfo.com/sexual-harassment/

“Just joking is not a defense.”

Laying a complaint with the Human Rights Commission

You must contact the Human Rights Commission within 12 months of the most recent incident of harassment.

You will probably be asked to explain your allegations on a form. The Human Rights Commission will use the information you provide on that form to decide if there are reasonable grounds to accept your complaint.

The Human Rights Commission will inform you if it decides not to accept your complaint. That doesn’t mean they don’t believe you or that your complaint isn’t valid – it may be that there isn’t enough evidence to make a successful complaint.

The process is confidential between the parties, which means both the complainant and the alleged harasser will have all relevant information from the other party disclosed to them.

The Commission will try to get the complainant and the alleged harasser to resolve their own complaint – usually through mediation. The mediator will discuss ways to settle the dispute. The mediator does not have the authority to make a finding of harassment. Both parties have the right to refuse mediation.

If you and /or the alleged harasser don’t agree to mediation, or mediation doesn’t resolve your complaint, the complaint is given to a Human Rights Specialist to investigate.

You can hire your own lawyer or have a support person help you with this process.

The Human Rights Specialist will give your alleged harasser 60 days to file a reply to your complaint, and you have a chance to respond to their reply. The Commission may ask for documents, names of witnesses, statements from you and your alleged harasser, etc. Then the Human Rights Specialist reviews and investigates.

The next stage is the Human Rights Commissioners review the complaint and evidence. They can dismiss the complaint. If that happens, you have the right to apply for a judicial review.

Refer your complaint to directed mediation and / or to the Board of Inquiry for a hearing.

If your complaint is referred to the Board of Inquiry, there will be a public hearing before an adjudicator. Both you and your alleged harasser will have a chance to present evidence and arguments.

The Board of Inquiry can make a finding of harassment and make certain orders. The Board provides a written decision. Its orders are binding on both you and your alleged harasser.

Before the hearing, you can argue that protecting your personal information outweighs the public interest of full public disclosure.

Both parties have the right to appeal the decision of the Board of Inquiry to the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador, General Division, within 30 days of receiving the Board’s order.

The province’s Supreme Court can confirm, reverse, or vary the decisions and orders of the Board of Inquiry.

SOURCE: https://thinkhumanrights.ca/the-complaint-process/