The truth is that while the laws across Canada require employers to take comprehensive measures to protect employees from workplace harassment, employers are rarely experts in this field. Some employers may be dismissive, especially if there is a systemic problem within the workplace culture, or if alleged perpetrators are longstanding employees. Employers may also not realize that behaviours which may have been ‘laughed off’ or quietly ignored a few decades ago are simply unacceptable today.
If an employer is not taking corrective measures or investigating where required, employees should first consult with an employment lawyer. There may be several options available to make the employer take action, such as proceeding through a provincial or federal ministry of labour complaint, a human rights complaint, or potentially even a civil claim. A lawyer can sit down with you and assess your various options, and where you may have the greatest chance of success. Also, they can advocate for you throughout this process, and can help open your employer’s eyes to the seriousness of the problem.
Lastly, we often encounter situations where a culture of workplace harassment has unfortunately made it impossible for employees to continue in the role. In those cases there may not be a healthy option for the employee to stay within the workplace. We will often work with those clients to assess whether or not they have actually been constructively dismissed – or whether their employer has single handedly decided to no longer honour the terms of their employment – and can assess how to best proceed with those legal claims.