Maintaining an environment free of sexual harassment is ultimately the responsibility of employers, housing providers, educators, and other responsible parties covered by this Code. From a human rights perspective, it is unacceptable to ignore incidents of sexual harassment, whether or not a human rights complaint has been filed.
Organizations and agencies operating in Ontario are required by law to take steps to prevent and address violations of this Code, including conducting sexual harassment training. Employers, housing providers, educators, and other responsible parties must work to maintain a drug-free environment that respects human rights. The commitment and effort required will be worth it.
Employers, housing providers, educators, and other responsible parties violate this Code directly or indirectly, intentionally or unintentionally, or if they do not violate this Code directly, but allow, condone, or engage in conduct contrary to this Code guidelines.
According to human rights, people must refrain from condoning or perpetuating discrimination that has already occurred, as doing so prolongs the duration of the original discriminatory act. This obligation applies to those who are not the principal parties, but who find themselves in a discriminatory position because of their contractual relationship or otherwise. Depending on the circumstances, employers, housing providers, educators, and other responsible parties may be held liable for the actions of third parties (including clients, contractors, etc.) who are guilty of sexual harassment.
Human rights policymakers often hold organizations accountable and assess damages based on failure to adequately address discrimination and harassment. An organization may respond to a complaint about an individual incident of discrimination or harassment, but its response may still be considered inadequate if the underlying issue is not addressed. Even if individual harassers have been punished, there may be a toxic environment or organizational culture that condones sexual harassment. In these cases, organizations should take additional steps, including providing training and education, to address issues more effectively. Organizations have a legal obligation to respond to sexual harassment complaints.
In determining whether an organization has met its obligations to respond to human rights complaints, the following factors should be considered:
Current Procedures for Handling Incidents of Discrimination and Harassment
How quickly the agency responds to complaints
- Whether the complaint is taken seriously
- Resources available for handling complaints
- Whether the measures taken have been properly explained to the complainant.
- OHRC provides more information in its publication, Guidelines for Developing Human Rights Policies and Procedures, to help organizations meet their human rights obligations and take proactive steps to ensure their environments are free from discrimination and harassment.
Anti-Sexual Harassment Policy
Sexual harassment in the workplace – Employers, housing providers, educators, and other responsible parties can help foster a harassment-free environment for those protected by the Code by developing clear and comprehensive anti-harassment policies. In the case of allegations of sexual harassment, this policy will inform all parties of their respective rights, roles, and responsibilities. The policy should clearly state the steps that will be taken to address sexual harassment promptly and effectively.
Everyone should be aware of the existence of an anti-sexual harassment policy and established procedures for resolving complaints. To do this, organizations can:
Distribute to everyone as soon as the policy is in place
Educate staff, tenants, students, etc. by including policies in guidance documents
Train people, including those in key positions, on the content of the policy and provide ongoing training on human rights issues.
An anti-sexual harassment policy can limit harm and mitigate liability. In addition, it promotes the fairness and diversity goals of organizations and institutions and is good business practice.
Employers, housing providers, educators, and other responsible parties must also have procedures in place to deal with incidents of sexual harassment from third parties. These procedures should describe the proper way to deal with harassment and ensure that serious or ongoing problems are reported to managers and that they take appropriate steps to assess the situation and take corrective action. In practice, it is important that all sexual harassment complaints are taken seriously and dealt with promptly, that complaint mechanism are implemented, and that those who make complaints are not subject to disciplinary action or retaliation. All responsible parties should regularly monitor their environment to ensure they are free from sexual harassment. Proactive measures to maintain a drug-free environment will help prevent sexual harassment from taking root and escalating.