How well do you know harassment law? Take this quiz to find out.
- Harassment at work:
- Was prohibited by law just in the past year
- Has been prohibited by law for a long time
- Although frowned upon, is not expressly prohibited by law
- If you see a co-worker being harassed, you:
- Cannot report – only the harassed person can report it
- Because you witnessed it, you are automatically obliged to report it
- Can report it but only if the harassed person gives you his/her consent
- Harassment should be treated as:
- Bad for morale but often an unavoidable part of the job
- A workplace hazard to health, just like toxic chemicals or heavy machinery
- Something you just have to get toughened up to, and then you’ll be fine
- Workplace harassment is addressed in the:
- Employment Standards Act and the Human Rights Code
- Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Human Rights Code
- Employment Standards Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Act
- Bill 132, the Sexual Violence and Harassment Plan Act, made changes to the Occupational Health and Safety Act that apply to:
- Full-time workers
- Full-time and part-time workers
- Full-time workers, part-time workers, and volunteers
So, how did you do?
If you answered “a” or “c” to any of these questions, you may require some input on harassment prevention at the workplace under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA). You can contact your local PSHSA consultant to arrange this.
If you answered “b” to every question, congratulations! You really know your stuff!
Decent Work: Could harassment be lurking in your collaborative workplace culture?
By Ayumi Bailly, Public Services Health and Safety Association
One of the many wonderful things about the nonprofit sector is its hallmark of being values-driven – admirable values like integrity, respect, openness – the values that draw us to work in the sector in the first place.
Compare this with the stats about workplace harassment:
- For Personal Support Workers in Ontario, 20% experience harassment or violence on-the-job
- 50% of workplace harassment victims suffer from mental health problems
- 28% of the Canadian workforce experiences unwanted sexual advances
- Bullied workers take, on average, 7 more sick days each year
- 29% of bullied workers stop the bullying by quitting
There’s also the reality that incidents of harassment are significantly under-reported. So, these statistics make things look better than they actually are.
How do you square these stats with our belief that we as a sector are better at workplace culture than others?
The answer is that nonprofits are not immune to the kinds of issues that plague other sectors. Even if you have a high EQ, you may still not see any signs of a problem until you put in place the anti-harassment program now required by the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
One of the critical elements of such a program is a clear reporting mechanism for staff to report incidents of harassment, including an alternate disclosure channel if the alleged harasser is the worker’s own supervisor.
If you receive a disclosure of harassment, you may feel shock, disbelief and uncertainty about what to do next. This is the time to remind yourself that if you know you have a problem, you’ll be able to do something about it.
If you receive no disclosures after implementing your anti-harassment program, it confirms that your workplace culture is healthy.
Or does it? Given the high rate of suppression, combined with the reality that harassment often takes subtle forms and that harassers can be very good at “managing up”, just implementing a reporting mechanism may not be enough.
You will need to lead by example, not just with your day-to-day conduct but also by your actions – initiate, repeatedly, conversations about the values you want your team to emulate. Conduct confidential surveys to find out what would make it safe for your staff to report harassment. Use a collaborative process to develop a Code of Conduct, not just for staff, but for clients and customers. Post the Code in a highly visible location. And keep looking for more ways to open up the conversation and engage staff directly in making improvements.
In other words, be brave. Harassment is a difficult topic at the best of times, and our jobs are already demanding. But if you remain committed to this goal, and show others how to turn difficult conversations into constructive change, you can take justified pride in creating a healthy workplace culture that reflects your values and those of nonprofits across Ontario.
Ayumi Bailly is Director, Strategic Initiatives, Public Services Health and Safety Association.
Over the past 25 years, Ms. Bailly has held a variety of senior posts in the public and non-profit sectors. Since joining the occupational health and safety sector, she has been deeply committed to the prevention of workplace illness, injury and fatality through awareness and education.