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The requirements to establish harassment in the workplace

For certain federal employees in Alberta, harassment in the workplace is governed under the Policy on Harassment Prevention and Resolution. This policy defines harassment as a series of incidents, the repetition of which generates the status of harassment. The incidents could comprise of comments or behaviour that humiliate, embarrass or offend an employee. However, one incident that is serious enough to have a momentous and lasting effect on an employee also could be considered harassment.

To establish that harassment is occurring or has occurred in the workplace, certain requirements must be met. The harasser had to have displayed offensive or improper behaviour. The individual also had to have known or should have known that the behaviour would harm or offend the employee. The behaviour needs to have happened in the workplace or a work-related location, directed at the employee, and harmed or offended the employee. Lastly, the behaviour has to have had a lasting effect on the employee.

An example of workplace harassment is a supervisor spreading rumours or gossip about an employee that causes humiliation or embarrassment to the worker. Harassment may also involve a superior calling an employee names in front of other workers or displaying behaviour related to prohibited grounds for discrimination as set forth in the Canadian Human Rights Act, including sexual harassment.

Employees who believe that they are the victims of these or similar harassing situations are urged to ensure that the harassers know their feelings and to try to resolve the issue. If the harassment does not stop or the employees do not believe that they can talk to the harassers, they need to speak with the level of management who oversees the harassers. It may also be advisable to seek the advice of a lawyer who has experience in employment law.

Source: Treasury board of Canada, "What criteria have to be met to establish whether there was harassment?", October 09, 2014

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