What can I do if I’ve been sexually harassed at work?

The law says that sexual harassment happens when someone says or does something sexual that:

  • they know is not wanted, or
  • any reasonable person would know is not wanted.

Sexual harassment can take place in many ways. For example, it can happen when someone:

  • asks sexual questions or makes people talk about sexual topics
  • makes sexual jokes
  • makes comments or jokes about a person's gender, body, or sexual orientation
  • displays or sends pictures that are pornographic or sexually graphic
  • touches or stares for no reason
  • asks for hugs, dates, or sexual favours

There are many other ways that sexual harassment can happen. The Ontario Human Rights Commission has more information to help you understand and identify sexual harassment.

Laws against harassment

There are laws that protect you if you've been sexually harassed at work.

Ontario's human rights laws say that your employer must not discriminate against you. And if other workers discriminate against you, your employer must take steps to make them stop.

Sexual harassment is a kind of that's based on sex or sexual orientation. So, if you're sexually harassed at work, your employer can be legally responsible for any injury that you suffer. Injuries include mental distress and harm to your self-respect.

Ontario's employment laws also protect against sexual harassment in a certain way. If your employer does not put a stop to the sexual harassment, you may feel forced to leave your job. If this happens, you may be able to get , as if you were wrongfully fired. This is called . To claim constructive dismissal, you must leave your job.

Another option is to make a workplace safety complaint. Your employer must provide a safe workplace. And they must investigate any complaints about at work.

There are pros and cons to each option and their deadlines may be different. Talk to a lawyer or speak with the Sexual Harassment and Assault Resource Exchange (SHARE) to help you decide what to do.

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