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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 workers to ensure Saskatchewan workplaces are free of harassment.

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1. What is harassment

There are three types of harassment defined in the Act:

  1. Harassment based on prohibited grounds.
  2. Personal harassment.
  3. Sexual harassment.

Who is considered a worker has been expanded in the definition of harassment in the Act to include:

  • secondary and post-secondary students working for or being trained by an employer;
  • a volunteer performing work or services; and
  • independent and dependent contractors.

Harassment based on prohibited grounds

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

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.

Sexual harassment

Sexual harassment may be verbal, physical or visual. It may be one incident or a series of incidents. It is always unsolicited and unwelcome behaviour, and can take many forms, including but not limited to:

  • sexual remarks;
  • "jokes" with sexual overtones;
  • a sexual advance or invitation;
  • displaying offensive pictures or photographs;
  • threats;
  • leering;
  • physical contact like touching, patting, pinching or brushing against; or
  • sexual and physical assault.
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2. 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 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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3. 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 the organization's harassment policy for information on reporting options and investigation process.

If your employer has failed to take reasonable steps to address the harassment, as a worker you can request the assistance of the Ministry of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety's Occupational Health and Safety Branch.

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4. Responsibilities of employers and workers

All workers, including independent contractors, secondary and post-secondary students, and volunteers have a responsibility to ensure appropriate conduct in the workplace.

Workers 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 workers 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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5. 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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