In Quebec, every employee is entitled to a healthy work environment without psychological, unfairly biased or sexual harassment. But what is harassment?
The Act respecting labour standards sets out the criteria defining it. We therefore refer to psychological or sexual harassment when a work-related situation involves all these combined characteristics:
- vexatious behaviour (abusive, humiliating, offensive) in the form of verbal comments, gestures or behaviour that:
- is repeated
- is hostile (aggressive, threatening) or unwanted;
- affects the person’s dignity (respect, self-esteem) or physical, psychological or emotional integrity
- is detrimental to the person’s work environment.
The consequences of harassment
A single serious action may also be considered harassment if it has sustained negative consequences for the person. Unfairly biased harassment, based on gender, ethnic origin or sexual orientation, for example, is also considered harassment according to the Act respecting labour standards. The grounds for discriminatory action are listed in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Art. 10).
Harassment may occur at any level in the hierarchy of a company: between managers, colleagues, between a manager and a member of personnel. It can also come from outside the company: customer, user, supplier or visitor.
Without appropriate intervention, harassment may have serious consequences for the people affected, such as, reduced motivation and self-esteem, deterioration of physical or psychological health and increased absenteeism. The consequences for companies may also be significant: loss of productivity, downturn in quality of service, absenteeism, recruitment difficulties, etc. These consequences often do not end at the same time as the harassment but only once a healthy working environment is restored within the company.
We must remain vigilant. For example, repeated rudeness or interpersonal conflict can quickly deteriorate and turn into psychological harassment.
A healthy working environment is maintained by the contribution made by everyone but, by law, the employer has specific obligations:
- It must take reasonable measures to guard against psychological or sexual harassment in the company. It bears the responsibility for intervening to put a stop to any harassment situation reported.
- To this effect, it is obliged to implement a policy for the prevention of psychological or sexual harassment and the handling of complaints and make it available to all its personnel.
Are you experiencing psychological or sexual harassment at work?
If circumstances allow, talk to your employer or to the person appointed in the prevention policy.
You can also submit a complaint to the CNESST. You have 2 years from the last act of harassment to do so.
In addition, by reporting conflict or a harassment situation that you have witnessed to your employer or to the designated person, you can help put an end to it.
This publication is the result of a collaboration with the CNESST, the organization entrusted by the Government of Quebec with the promotion of labour rights and obligations. It ensures that these rights and obligations are respected by Quebec workers and employers.
To know more about psychological or sexual harassment in the workplace, go to the CNESST website or obtain information by phone on: 1-844-838-0808
To book an appointment with a labour and employment lawyer at our Legal Information Clinic, you can leave us a message at (514) 866-9941, ext. 293 or you can complete this contact form.