Workplace harassment: information for workers
Learn what to do and where to get help if you are being harassed at work.
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Workplace harassment is never okay. An employer has specific obligations under Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) to deal with workplace harassment.
Workplace harassment occurs when a person engages in a course of vexatious comment or conduct against a worker in a workplace which is known, or ought reasonably to be known, to be unwelcome. This also includes workplace sexual harassment.
Workplace harassment includes, but is not limited to:
- offensive comments or jokes
- bullying or aggressive behaviour
- inappropriate staring
- sexual harassment
- isolating or making fun of a worker because of their gender identity
Workplace harassment is not a manager or supervisor taking a reasonable action relating to the management and direction of workers or the workplace.
What to do if you are being harassed at work
Tell your supervisor, manager or person designated by your employer, that you feel harassed at work. If you are in a union, you may contact your union.
Keep a written record of
- when and where you were harassed
- what was said or done
- who said or did it
- the names of any witnesses
Your employer must:
- have a workplace harassment policy and review it as often as necessary, but at least annually
- have a workplace harassment program that describes how to make a complaint or report an incident of workplace harassment, and how those complaints or incidents will be investigated and dealt with
- provide information and instruction to workers on the employer’s workplace harassment policy and program
- ensure the written program is developed and maintained in consultation with the joint health and safety committee or health and safety representative, if any
- ensure an appropriate investigation is conducted into incidents or complaints of workplace harassment
- inform the people involved in the harassment about the results of the investigation and any corrective action that has been, or will be, taken. This includes the worker who has allegedly experienced workplace harassment and the alleged harasser, if they are a worker of the employer. This must be done in writing.
- review the workplace harassment program as often as necessary, but at least once a year
Role of the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development
Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development (MLTSD) inspectors enforce the OHSA requirements. If your employer fails to comply with its duties under the OHSA, the MLTSD may investigate.
For example, if you reported to your employer that you were being harassed at work and your employer did not ensure an investigation appropriate in the circumstances was conducted into your complaint, the MLTSD may investigate to decide if your employer met their obligations under the OHSA.
MLTSD inspectors do not investigate into specific allegations, or the behaviour of any individuals involved, to determine if workplace harassment occurred or not. Inspectors cannot order compensation or other individual remedies.
If you are disciplined, suspended or threatened for exercising your rights under the OHSA, you may file a complaint with the Ontario Labour Relations Board or, if you are unionized, you may contact your union. If you do not have a union, you may wish to get advice from the Office of the Worker Advisor.
Where to go for help
Call the police
You should call the police if you have been a victim of a criminal offence, such as assault, sexual assault or criminal harassment (stalking).
You should report incidents or complaints of workplace harassment to your employer. Also check to see if there is a person at your workplace who you can contact for confidential support (such as, an employee assistance program).
- place of origin
- ethnic origin
- sexual orientation
- gender expression
- gender identity
- record of offences
- marital status
- family status
Contact the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) to file a human rights application.
Visit the Ontario Human Rights Commission for more information about human rights.
The time limit for filing an application at the HRTO is one year from the date of the last incident of discrimination or harassment.
Law Society Referral Service
Visit the Law Society of Upper Canada Referral Service to:
- request the name of a lawyer or paralegal who will give you up to 30 minutes of free consultation to explore your options
- access a crisis line for people who would like a referral to a legal representative but are unable to use the online service
- be referred to a lawyer or paralegal who speaks languages other than English or French or who accepts legal aid certificates
Ontario Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development
You may file a complaint with the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development if your employer:
- does not have a workplace harassment policy or program
- did not provide information and instruction on the employer’s policy and program
- failed to conduct an investigation that is appropriate in the circumstances
Ontario Labour Relations Board
You may file a complaint with the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) if you think your employer has reprised against you.
Office of the Worker Adviser
Contact the Office of the Worker Adviser for advice if you are not a member of a union and you think your employer has threatened or punished you for exercising your rights under the OHSA.
Assaulted Women’s Helpline
The Assaulted Women’s Helpline offers 24-hour telephone service to women who have experienced abuse and provides:
- emotional support
- information and referrals