Sexual Harassment: Creating a Safe Workplace

Sexual Harassment: Creating a Safe Workplace

Safe Workplace #Metoo

Minimizing risk and liability for harassment claims.

Lyndon Thiessen, BA BTH LLB
Senior Partner, RMLO

With public claims of sexual harassment surfacing over the last few years, as well as the #MeToo movement, it’s no wonder many employers are concerned about their responsibility for stopping sexual harassment and how to take necessary precautions.

It’s critical to be proactive, if you have the opportunity, rather than react to an existing complaint. Harassment, as Alberta Human Rights Act states, occurs when an employee experiences unwanted verbal or physical abuse because of race, religion, colour, gender (including identity and expression), physical or mental disability, age, ancestry, place of origin, marital status, source of income, family status or sexual orientation. This act includes all unwelcome verbal and physical harassment by employers, employees or any members of the public.

Alberta’s Occupational Health and Safety legislation also includes copious amounts of information regarding sexual harassment in the workplace. The statute states that “Education to increase awareness is key to eliminating workplace violence and harassment.” Implementing this education is best done through ongoing training and communication. Every worker should know their rights and responsibilities for a positive, safe work environment.

The increased media concern has highlighted employer risk, especially if due diligence and prevention measures aren’t in place. To decrease risk, an employer must also show that they took prompt action in correcting offending behaviour.

Here are a few questions to see if your company is fulfilling its responsibilities to minimize potential threats and keep the workplace safe.

  • Is there a sexual harassment policy in place?
  • Is this policy up-to-date and reader-friendly?
  • Do your employees have access to it?
  • Have your staff, both employees and managers, been trained in your policy and practices?
  • Does your team have a procedure in place for when an incident occurs?
  • Are there sanctions in place in the event of a breach of the policy?
  • Do you have resources for managing the risks, including training for those who will be investigating the potential complaints?

It’s never too late to put these policies and procedures in place. Contact RMLO today!

Lyndon Thiessen