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Workplace Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment involves a wide variety of sexualized actions and behaviours that are unwanted, unwelcome, and harmful in the workplace. Behaviours and actions can include: 

  • Unwanted touching
  • Unwanted sexualized comments, gestures, and jokes
  • Asking for sexual favours
  • Other behaviours and actions that “ought to be known” as unwelcome and unwanted (e.g. leering, standing in someone’s personal space, talking about people’s bodies or sex lives)   

Workplace sexual harassment can be perpetrated by: 

  • A Company Owner
  • Manager or Boss
  • Supervisor
  • Co-worker 
  • Volunteer or Intern
  • Business Partner
  • Client or Customer or Service User

Workplace sexual harassment can also escalate outside of a work environment. Escalation means an increase and/or continuation of unwanted sexual behaviours and actions. Escalation of workplace sexual harassment can happen in other settings such as: 

  • Social gatherings (i.e. office parties)
  • Social media/Internet
  • Professional networks
  • Professional Development Opportunities or Trainings

Escalation of sexual harassment can also increase the risk of violence, abuse, and trauma for the affected worker. 
Sexual harassment can happen to anyone in the workplace regardless of gender and sexual orientation. 

Under various laws, all workers have the right to work in safe and anti-discriminatory environments that are free from gender and sexual harassment. 


Any action(s) or threat(s) that are made against the harassed worker by the perpetrator or employer to punish the worker for reporting or complaining about sexual harassment to HR at the workplace, to police, or other authorities.  Reprisal can also apply in situations where a person is complaining on behalf of someone else.  Reprisal can include, but is not limited to: 

  • Escalation of harassing behaviours and actions
  • Unauthorized increase or decrease of working hours
  • Withholding pay
  • Verbal harassment of harassed worker in front of other workers
  • Isolating the harassed worker in the workplace
  • Including other workers in the harassment (e.g. spreading rumours)

Acts of reprisal against a harassed worker who has reported workplace sexual harassment are prohibited under provincial and federal laws.


Consent means a person is freely agreeing to the sexual activity in question, without force or intimidation. Consent to sexual activity is a clear YES through words or actions and must be given for every sexual act.

If a person does not provide a clear YES through words or actions, the person has NOT given consent to sexual activity or a sexual act. Silence does not mean consent.  A person must be capable of consenting for consent to take place.  For example, a person who is unconscious cannot consent.

Consent is ongoing and a person can take back consent before or during sexual activity. If a person is persuaded or intimidated into sexual activity by a perpetrator who has power or is in a role of trust, the person has not given consent freely.

Sexual Assault 

Sexual assault is any touching or activity of a sexual nature without the consent of the person being touched.