Unfortunately, harassment in the workplace is all too prevalent these days. Although there are laws against some forms of workplace harassment, it is still something that happens all too often. As an employer, it’s your responsibility to be aware of legislation in your province and take steps to enforce it.

For example, Ontario employers of any size must have a workplace sexual harassment program in place that includes a policy, complaints and investigation procedures, and training. When your business is informed about the different forms of harassment in the workplace, you can implement policies, procedures, and training to help decrease its prevalence.

In the following blog post, we will identify seven common forms of harassment in the workplace:

1. Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

As mentioned above, all Ontario employers must have a sexual harassment program in place. The Ministry of Labour’s Code of Practice to Address Workplace Harassment states that employers must provide employees with instruction that:

  • sets out what conduct is considered workplace harassment, including workplace sexual harassment, and how to recognize it;
  • defines, describes, and gives examples of workplace sexual harassment.
  • Reviews the contents of the workplace policy that informs employees
  • how and to whom to report an incident of workplace harassment;
  • how the employer will investigate and deal with an incident or complaint of workplace harassment.

The goal is to decrease the occurrence of sexual harassment in the workplace, as it’s one of the most common forms of harassment.

2. Physical Harassment in the Workplace

Physical harassment, often called workplace violence, comes in the form of violence to both an individual and property. For example, an employee may be pushed, slapped, punched, or their car may be subject to vandalism.

Physical harassment also comes in the form of threats. In the most extreme cases, physical harassment may be classified as assault. It’s important to define what constitutes physical harassment and make sure it is communicated in codes of conduct and policies.

3. Psychological Harassment in the Workplace

Not all forms of harassment in the workplace is physical. Psychological harassment has a negative impact on a person’s psychological well-being. With this form of workplace harassment, the victim is continuously belittled, put down, and subject to condescending comments. These comments can pertain to an employee’s work and/or personal life and are humiliating, offensive, and abusive.

For example, it might look like everything a victim is saying is being opposed or challenged, or they may be subject to rumours. Not only does the victim suffer psychologically, but it can also have a negative effect on their physical health.

4. Gender Harassment in the Workplace

Gender harassment is defined as discriminatory behaviour towards a person based on their gender. For example, denying someone a job, promotion, or raise because they don’t fit gender stereotypes is discrimination.

Employees engage in gender discrimination when they make discriminatory comments toward other employees, like a male nurse suffering harassment for having what is perceived as a woman’s job. This type of harassment is illegal and should be taken very seriously.

5. Racial Harassment in the Workplace

Racial harassment occurs when an employee is harassed because of their race, skin colour, ancestry, origin country or citizenship. With this form of harassment in the workplace, the victim may be subject to racial slurs, insults, jokes, and degrading comments.

Racial harassment also occurs when someone is denied promotions, raises and other benefits due to their race.

6. Verbal Harassment in the Workplace

Verbal harassment includes things like threatening, yelling, insulting or swearing at a victim. This form of harassment in the workplace is not illegal, so it often gets swept under the rug as someone can just chalk it up to “having a little fun”.

Employers can communicate to employees that this form of workplace harassment is taken just as seriously as other forms of harassment. Establishing a policy in place is great for combating these forms of harassment in the workplace. Make sure employees are aware of this policy by creating a training course around it and outlining the definition in the codes of conduct.

7. Religious Harassment in the Workplace

Religious harassment takes place when someone is targeted due to their religious beliefs and practices. For example, an employee may need more breaks than others to pray in private and has now become subject to demeaning comments about their religion. Other examples of religious harassment are intolerance toward religious holidays, traditions, customs, cruel jokes, and degrading comments.

To combat these forms of harassment in the workplace, implement policies and codes of conduct specific to harassment. Be sure to outline what each form of harassment is, define them, and provide examples. The next step is to train your employees on what harassment is, how to recognize it and how to report it. Make sure you have a complaint process implemented and that it’s clear how to submit a complaint.

With these policies and procedures in place, employees will know that their employer cares about their well-being and that their workplace is a great place to work.

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