Workplace Harassment

Workplace Harassment

What is Workplace Harassment?

The courts have defined workplace harassment as any unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. Harassment becomes unlawful where 1) enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment, or 2) the conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive.

What is sexual harassment?

The courts have defined sexual harassment as a type of discrimination that includes any unwanted or unwelcome sexual behaviour or language.

This can include verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, such as comments, jokes, gestures, or physical touching, as well as visual displays such as leering or displaying sexually explicit images.

Sexual harassment can also include requests for sexual favours or the threat of retaliation for refusing such requests.

What is Discrimination in the workplace?

The courts have defined discrimination in the workplace is treating an employee or group of employees differently and less favourably based on a protected characteristic, such as race, sex, religion, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information.

This can include, but is not limited to, not hiring or promoting someone because of their protected characteristic, setting different terms and conditions of employment, and paying different wages or benefits to employees based on a protected characteristic.

It can also include creating a hostile work environment, which is when the discrimination is so severe or pervasive that it affects an individual’s ability to do their job or creates an intimidating or offensive work environment.

Discrimination can also include retaliation against an employee for complaining about discrimination or for participating in an investigation of discrimination, it’s important to note that it’s illegal to discriminate against someone because they have complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an investigation or lawsuit about discrimination.

Workplace harassments rights in BC

In British Columbia, Canada, the Human Rights Code prohibits discrimination and harassment in the workplace on the grounds of race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, religion, marital status, family status, physical or mental disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, and age (19 and over).

The British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission have jurisdiction to investigate and resolve complaints of discrimination and harassment in the workplace. An employee can file a complaint with the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal or the Canadian Human Rights Commission if they believe they have been discriminated against or harassed in the workplace.

Employees and employers can also refer to the British Columbia Human Rights Code and the Canadian Human Rights Act in order to understand their rights and responsibilities related to discrimination and harassment in the workplace.

What is your employer’s responsibility?

Employers in British Columbia are also required to have policies in place to prevent and address discrimination and harassment in the workplace, and to provide employees with information about their rights and responsibilities under the Human Rights Code.

Employers have a responsibility to ensure that the workplace is free from discrimination and harassment, and must take appropriate steps to address any complaints that may arise.

Can I be fired for reporting workplace harassment?

Employers are not allowed to fire employees for reporting workplace harassment. If an employer chose to do so, the employee would most certainly be successful in a lawsuit for wrongful termination.

Harassment as Constructive Dismissal (hostile work environment)

Harassment can be considered a form of Constructive Dismissal.

In such a case, the employee can sue the employer for Constructive Dismissal.

Harassment in the Workplace

The best way to prove workplace harassment is with witnesses. If you have fellow employees who have witnessed your harassment and are willing confirm this then you have a strong case.
If you are suffering from a hostile workplace, you may decide to consider this to be constructive dismissal. If so, you would resign from your position and sue your employer. If the court agrees that you were constructively dismissed, then you will be entitled to pay in place of notice. Every case is different. Generally speaking, employees are entitled to 1 month’s severance pay for every year of employment.

How can Tim Louis Law help?

I have been practicing employment law for almost 40 years. Many of my clients have suffered from workplace harassment. If you would like a free consultation, please contact me at (604) 732-7678

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