Ridout Barron


Handling workplace harassment in startup culture

In today's emergent technologies industry, there are a wealth of companies commonly referred to as "startups." These are typically grassroots tech developers with a limited staff in a high-stress workplace environment. For Alberta residents, this type of workplace can be a breeding ground for harassment, particularly for women who are already underrepresented in the technology industry. In many cases, these companies lack the standard safeguards meant to protect employees from unfair or harassing treatment at work. This is why an understanding of employee rights can be so integral to pursuing harassment lawsuits.

The lack of human resources departments in many tech companies can be detrimental. In a culture defined by playing (as one startup executive said) "fast and loose" with professionalism in the name of creative freedom and team building, the responsibility of handling incidents of harassment often falls to the victim. Not only do these individuals have to handle the initial harassment, but they must also be the ones to address it with management and even with the perpetrators.

In some cases, a supportive CEO or other higher management can be appealed to in order to handle the issue internally. Unfortunately, some CEOs turn a blind eye to inappropriate behaviour in the workplace. This is why it is important for those who feel victimized to document in writing any attempts to handle the situation by going through management.

If appealing to management fails, Alberta residents experiencing harassment -- both in the tech industry and in any other job -- can seek out the support of an employment law attorney. An experienced attorney can address the facts of the case, including any and all documentation, and advise on best courses of action. If necessary, the case can be escalated beyond the scope of the company and into the courts.

Source: The Globe and Mail, "I work at a startup with no HR department. How do I deal with blatant sexism?", Kiran Rana, Aug. 22, 2017

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