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Preventing Harassment In The Workplace

By Sushila Samy

Harassment is unwelcome, offensive, degrading behaviour that should not be tolerated in any workplace. It may occur once or be repeated. Harassment may be racial, sexual or on any other grounds of the human rights legislation. Examples include display of offensive posters and pictures, demeaning jokes, derogatory comments, name calling, and physical assault.

Personal Harassment is not based on the prohibited grounds of discrimination in the human rights legislation. Therefore, it is not a human rights discrimination issue. Human rights commissions do not deal with this form of harassment. Personal harassment has to be dealt with through the organization’s harassment prevention policy or through terms of the collective agreement. Examples of personal harassment include abuse of authority.

Harassment can happen to anyone. The person accused of harassment could be a co-worker, manager, supervisor and male or female. The behaviour is generally one-sided and unwanted by the victim. Courts have ruled that a reasonable person ought to know that the behaviour is unwelcome. Harassment may occur at the work-site or away from the workplace when on business. Employers are ultimately responsible for maintaining a harassment-free workplace. The onus is on managers and supervisors to act quickly and effectively when a complaint of harassment is reported.

Employers can reduce their liability by taking prompt action when a complaint is received; ensuring all employees are aware of their rights and responsibilities in preventing harassment and by having an effective harassment policy that is communicated to all employees.

Harassment has serious consequences for all businesses. It is costly, both financially and emotionally, and brings negative publicity to the business. Employers should take the necessary measures to prevent harassment before it becomes a problem.
Harassment is abuse. By showing that management has zero tolerance for harassment, it sends the message that everyone is to be treated with respect and dignity. If you are advised of harassment in the workplace, act immediately to stop the harassment.

Sushila Samy is an Edmonton based consultant and speaker. For more information contact her at (780) 432-7061 or e-mail:


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A professional trainer, speaker, and consultant since 1995, Nelson Scott works with organizations that are committed to making the right hiring decisions, developing and retaining productive staff, and strengthening relationships with customers.  Learn more by visiting or e-mailing


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