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Sexual Harassment  

 

WHAT IS SEXUAL HARASSMENT?
SEXUAL BEHAVIOUR
THE HUMAN RIGHTS ACT 1981
WHAT CAN MANAGEMENT AND SERVICE PROVIDERS DO?
WHAT TO DO IF YOU THINK YOU ARE BEING SEXUALLY HARASSED
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
OFFENCES AND PENALTIES


WHAT IS SEXUAL HARASSMENT?

Sexual harassment may be defined as sexual attention from one person to another which is unwarranted, unwelcome and unsolicited. There is no simple or universally accepted definition, but sexual harassment may be:

  1. Physical - touching, brushing against, pinching, patting
  2. Verbal - sexual remarks or teasing
  3. Non-verbal - leering or suggestive looks
  4. Subtle sexual hints and pressures
  5. Repeated pressure for a personal relationship or sex
  6. Unwelcome remarks, jokes, innuendos or taunting about a person's body
  7. Displaying or pornographic or derogatory pictures

The above list may not be exhaustive, but it does cover a broad spectrum. It is important to note that a remedy cannot be offered for every form of unsolicited sexual attention, for example: objectionable remarks or gestures from strangers on the street, unpleasant encounters at private parties or in public places, etc. In some instances, remedies may exist under the Criminal Code.

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SEXUAL BEHAVIOUR

Sexual harassment is not mutually pleasurable sexual behaviour. Adults who are in agreement are free to engage in discussions of sex and / or sexual behaviour without being concerned about the human rights law.

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THE HUMAN RIGHTS ACT 1981

Employers, landlords and others in authority have a duty to ensure that all persons are allowed to work and live in an environment without fear of sexual harassment, whether the harasser be in authority or not. An employee must not be allowed to sexually harass another employee; a tenant must not be allowed to sexually harass another tenant. Persons in authority should take corrective measures when informed of allegations of sexual harassment.

Under the Human Rights Act, a person harasses another sexually if he engages in sexual comment or sexual conduct which is vexatious and which he knows, or ought reasonably to know, is unwelcome.

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WHAT CAN MANAGEMENT AND SERVICE PROVIDERS DO?

Employers, service providers and landlords are responsible for any sexual harassment that occurs at their worksites or on their premises. Those in positions of authority should create a harassment-free environment.

Taking positive steps to prevent sexual harassment promotes fairness and dignity of all persons, regardless of their sex. The best preventive measure is to have a policy on sexual harassment and enforce it.

The Human Rights Commission is available to conduct workshops on sexual harassment and the rights, responsibilities and obligations of management and staff.

It must be noted, that it is against the law and a separate offence to retaliate against anyone for lodging a complaint with the Human Rights Commission.

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WHAT TO DO IF YOU THINK YOU ARE BEING SEXUALLY HARASSED

  1. Sexual harassment will not go away by ignoring it. In fact, it will probably continue and may get worse. Suggestions set out below are possible steps to take.


  2. Tell the harasser you consider the conduct to be sexual harassment, and you want it to stop. (Put your concerns in writing if necessary.)


  3. Document the dates, times, words used and conduct that you find offensive.


  4. Inform your employer/landlord, etc.


  5. Share the information with your co-workers if you wish. (Others may have been victims too!)


  6. Keep copies of all documentation.


  7. Contact the Human Rights Commission (the "Commission") for advice. You must file a complaint within six months from the date of the alleged harassment. If the Commission determines that the complaint has merit, an Investigations Officer will conduct a thorough and confidential investigation.


  8. The Commission may entertain a complaint up to two years after an alleged contravention, if it is satisfied that there are good reasons for the delay, and that no one will be prejudiced by the delay.

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WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

If the Commission substantiates the allegations of sexual harassment, an officer of the Commission will attempt to conciliate and settle the matter to the satisfaction of both parties. If the complaint is not conciliated within 9 months, the Commission must refer it to the Minister of Community, Culture and Sports. The Minister may, in his discretion, appoint a public Board of Inquiry to investigate the matter.

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OFFENCES AND PENALTIES

Any person found guilty of an offence under the Human Rights Act shall be liable on summary conviction:

  1. for a first offence, to a fine not exceeding five thousand dollars;
  2. for a second or subsequent offence, to a fine not exceeding fifteen thousand dollars or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years, or to both such fine and imprisonment

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