Harassment Prevention: Who Is Responsible?

As discussed in our accompanying article, Harassment Prevention starts with Knowing, the statistics are clear that harassment is occurring in many workplaces.  But who is ultimately responsible for making it stop?  The answer is everyone, but in varying levels.  As with all safety responsibilities, the ultimate responsibility is at the top.  However, everyone can play a role in keeping their workplace safe and free from harassment.

Who is Responsible?

If you are an employer, you have a legal duty to keep your workplace free from harassment.

If you are a supervisor, you have a legal duty to keep your workers safe from harassment.

If you are a worker, you have a legal duty NOT to harass others.

This means that everyone has a role to play in preventing harassment in the workplace.  But not all roles are created equal.

Harassment Policy

The employer has extra steps to take to ensure the safety of the entire workplace, and that means a workplace free from harassment.  All workplaces must implement a harassment policy and post a copy of the policy in a conspicuous (easily accessible and noticeable) place that is readily available for reference by workers.  In Saskatchewan, a harassment policy must include:

  • Definition of harassment (from Saskatchewan Employment Act).

  • Statement that every worker is entitled to employment free of harassment.

  • Commitment that the employer:

    • Will make every reasonably practicable effort to ensure that no worker is harassed; and

    • Will take corrective action respecting any person under the employer’s direction who subjects any worker to harassment.

  • Explanation of how complaints of harassment may be brought to the attention of the employer.

    • Statement that the employer will not disclose names or circumstances related to the complaint except where necessary for the investigation, to take corrective action, or as required by law.

  • Reference to a worker’s right to contact other agencies, such an Occupational Health Officer or the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission.

  • Description of the procedure that the employer will follow to inform the complainant and the alleged harasser of the results of the investigation.

  • Statement that the employer’s harassment policy is not intended to discourage or prevent the complainant from exercising any other legal rights pursuant to any other law.

Once the policy is in place, everyone must be trained on their specific duties.  For example, workers must know how to report harassment, and those receiving the reports must be trained on how to do so.  This includes both “by the book” training on the correct process, but also how to handle a meeting with someone who may become emotional and/or require extra support.

Having the right processes in place on paper is a great start, but it’s only a start.  To truly ensure you have a workplace free of harassment, you must continually work on a culture that supports your view.  This starts at the top, and must be exemplified by your senior leadership.  Your frontline supervisors, however, are what your employees will see and play a key role in fostering a supportive culture.

Everyone has a role to play in preventing harassment in the workplace.  But it is truly a worthy endeavor.

Resources

Harassment Prevention requirements are included in the Saskatchewan Employment Act and the Occupational Health & Safety Regulations. Harassment can also fall under the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission (for example, sexual harassment is a form of discrimination that is against the law and interferes with the rights guaranteed by The Saskatchewan Human Rights Code).

Saskatchewan Employment Act (3-1, 3-8, 3-9, 3-10)

Occupational Health & Safety Regulations (Section 36)

http://saskatchewanhumanrights.ca/learn/fact-sheets/sexual-harassment

 

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