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What can I do if I am being harassed at work?

Question
What can I do if I am being harassed at work?

Glossary

Clear language definitions to common legal terms. 

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Reviewed: 
October, 2015
Answer

If someone at work is trying to make you afraid, uncomfortable, or angry, they may be harassing you.

Workplace harassment is a series of comments or actions that the person knows you don't like.

It can also include things they should know that you don’t like, even if you have not told them. For example, they should know not to call you rude names, even if you haven't complained about it.

The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) says that harassment is usually 2 or more events with the same person. One event is not usually harassment.

Here are some examples of behaviour that could be harassment:

  • making jokes or comments that insult, intimidate, or offend you
  • showing offensive pictures or other materials at work
  • phone calls or emails that scare or offend you
  • sexual behaviour that you don’t want
  • making sexual suggestions
  • doing things to embarrass you
  • saying things that discriminate against you

It does not matter who is harassing you. It could be a client, a customer, a co-worker, an employer, or anyone else at your workplace.

If someone is harassing you at work, your employer must try to protect you.

Harassment that goes against your human rights

All workplace harassment is against the law in the Occupational Health and Safety Act. But some kinds are also against the law in the Ontario Human Rights Code.

Harassment that goes against your human rights is a kind of discrimination. This includes harassment because of:

  • your race, colour, ancestry, ethnic origin, citizenship, or where you were born
  • your religious beliefs
  • a physical or mental disability, including an addiction
  • your sex or gender
  • your sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression

Human rights laws say that employers must not discriminate against you. And if other workers discriminate against you, your employer must take steps to make them stop.

You have different options for dealing with harassment if it goes against your human rights. What if I'm being harassed at work for reasons that go against my human rights? has more information, including:

  • examples of this type of harassment
  • details about steps you can take, including how to make a complaint to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario
  • where you can get help with making a complaint to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario

The Ontario Human Rights Code also says that your employer can’t punish you for complaining about harassment.

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