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Employee rights: Sexual harassment in the workplace

It is no secret that many Canadian employees work in environments best described as hostile, or at least uncomfortable. Ontario residents will be unsurprised, albeit saddened, to hear that sexual harassment, particularly against female employees, plays a significant role in workplaces where employee rights are routinely violated. Thankfully, there is considerable legal support available to those who are otherwise not being supported by their employers. 

A question that is often asked of employment law attorneys is what, precisely, constitutes sexual harassment. Generally speaking there are two recognized forms of sexual harassment. The first comes in the form of unwanted advances, ranging from catcalls and inappropriate or unwelcome touching all the way to full-on assault. The second is sexual behaviour being extorted from employees in order for them to avoid professional backlash, up to and including termination of employment. 

Women are most often the target of this sort of inappropriate behaviour. However, it should be noted that every employee in such an environment could conceivably be at risk. Other high-risk demographics include people of colour, members of the LGBTQ community and those who work in isolated areas where a manager or owner can operate largely independent of external review. 

Here in Ontario and elsewhere in the nation, governmental and industrial moves have been made toward promoting employee rights in Canadian businesses. However, there is still a long way to go. This is why anyone who feels they are not being adequately supported in their workplace in reporting and handling incidents of sexual harassment and other forms of hostility may benefit from speaking to legal counsel with regard to pursuing legal recourse. 

Source:, "What Is Sexual Harassment In Today's Workplace?", Richard B.Cohen, June 8, 2017

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