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Bullying and Harassment in the Workplace

Everyone has the right to a healthy and safe work environment.

The Saskatchewan Employment Act outlines the rights and responsibilities of employers and employees to ensure Saskatchewan workplaces are free of harassment.


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1. What is harassment

There are two types of harassment covered under The Saskatchewan Employment Act:

  1. harassment based on prohibited grounds; and
  2. personal harassment.
Harassment based on prohibited grounds

Harassment based on prohibited grounds includes any inappropriate conduct, comment, display, action or gesture by a person that:

  • is made on the basis of race, creed, religion, colour, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, disability, physical size or weight, age, nationality, ancestry or place of origin; and
  • constitutes a threat to the health or safety of the worker.

This type of harassment also extends to sexual harassment which is conduct, comment, gesture or contact of a sexual nature that is offensive, unsolicited or unwelcome.  It can include:

  • a direct or implied threat of reprisal for refusing to comply with a sexually-oriented request;
  • unwelcome remarks, jokes, innuendos, propositions or taunting about a person’s body, attire, sex or sexual orientation;
  • displaying pornographic or sexually explicit pictures or materials;
  • unwelcome physical contact;
  • unwelcome invitations or requests, direct or indirect, to engage in behaviour of a sexual nature; or
  • refusing to work with or have contact with workers because of their sex, gender or sexual orientation.

Certain types of conduct not specifically directed at an individual, such as displaying a poster or making comments that are overheard by another worker, can be considered harassment based on prohibited grounds.

Personal Harassment

Personal harassment is sometimes referred to as bullying.  It includes any inappropriate conduct, comment, display, action or gesture by a person that:

  • adversely affects a worker’s psychological or physical well-being;
  • the perpetrator knows, or should know, would cause the worker to be humiliated or intimidated; and
  • constitutes a threat to the health and safety of a worker.

Typically, personal harassment involves repeat occurrences.  A single incident may also constitute personal harassment if serious or severe and is shown to have a lasting harmful effect on a worker.

Personal harassment may include:

  • verbal or written abuse or threats;
  • insulting, derogatory or degrading comments, jokes or gestures;
  • personal ridicule or malicious gossip;
  • malicious or unjustifiable interference with another’s work;
  • work sabotage;
  • refusing to work or co-operate with others; or
  • interference with, or vandalism of personal property.

All incidents of inappropriate conduct should be appropriately addressed to ensure the workplace remains respectful and harassment free.

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2. What is not harassment

Day-to-day management or supervisory decisions are not considered to be harassment even if they sometimes involve unpleasant consequences.  These include:

  • work assignments;
  • job assessments and evaluations;
  • workplace inspections;
  • implementation of appropriate dress codes; and
  • disciplinary actions.

Managerial actions must be carried out in a manner that is reasonable and not abusive.

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3. Responsibilities of employers and employees

All employees, including managers and supervisors, have a responsibility to ensure appropriate conduct in the workplace.

Employees are required to refrain from causing or participating in the harassment of another worker. They must also co-operate with harassment complaint investigations.

Employers also have the responsibility in ensuring a harassment-free workplace.  By law, an employer must:

  • develop and implement a written harassment policy that meets the requirements of the law; and
  • ensure, as much as reasonably practicable, that employees are not exposed to harassment in the workplace. This may include harassment that occurs outside of regular work hours and locations (i.e., employer-sponsored social event or conference) or is perpetrated by a third-party client (i.e., customer or client).
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4. Creating a harassment-free workplace

Creating and maintaining a harassment-free workplace takes commitment. Good management practices can help create a respectful workplace, including:

  • providing clear direction on roles, tasks and expectations to avoid misunderstandings;
  • demonstrating leadership in conflict management;
  • promoting respect in the workplace;
  • developing and implementing a harassment policy;
  • acting promptly to end harassment; and
  • hosting information meetings and training on harassment prevention.
Implementing a harassment policy

The Saskatchewan Employment Act requires all employers to develop and implement a harassment policy within their workplace.

The Harassment Prevention Guide shows employers:

  • how to develop a harassment policy;
  • what needs to be included in a harassment policy;
  • best practices to use when dealing with harassment; and
  • sample harassment policies, forms and statements.
Prevention Training and Resources

Awareness and commitment to harassment-free workplaces can be encouraged in a variety of ways.  Employers should promote awareness through information meetings and training on harassment prevention. Training can include:

  • rights and responsibilities workers have under The Saskatchewan Employment Act;
  • behaviours prohibited by the harassment policy including behaviours by third parties that will not be tolerated;
  • tips for helping create a respectful workplace;
  • videos, publications and reference materials on harassment prevention.
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5. Reporting harassment

If you have experienced or observed harassment in your workplace, you must report it to your employer to first try to resolve the issue internally.  Reference your company’s harassment policy for information on reporting options and investigation process.

As a worker, you have the right to request the assistance of the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Division. If your employer has failed to take reasonable steps to address the issue, you can ask for help by contacting OHS at 1-800-567-7233.  

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