I am experiencing a difficult situation with a co-worker
A co-worker is harassing me
The law protects you from harassment in the workplace.
Psychological harassment is where the words, actions or behaviour of a co-worker are repeatedly hostile, humiliating or unwanted. These words, actions or behaviour affect your physical or psychological health and make your work environment an unhealthy one. Under these circumstances, a single serious incident can also be considered psychological harassment.
For example, a co-worker criticizes your work whenever she has the chance. She says you’re too slow and you’d be just as much use if you stayed home. She even belittles and insults you in front of other people.
Here are some other examples of behaviour that may be associated with psychological harassment:
- Discrediting someone: not giving them any more duties, giving them duties that are too easy or too difficult or putting someone down in front of others.
- Isolating someone: refusing to talk to them, ignoring their presence or keeping them away from others.
- Slandering someone: spreading false rumours about them, making fun of them, humiliating them.
- Preventing someone from expressing him or herself: constantly cutting someone off when the person is trying to speak, ordering them not to speak to others or not including them in discussions.
- Destabilizing someone: putting down a person’s choices or beliefs, making fun of a person’s weaknesses or constantly questioning someone’s judgment.
Sexual harassment means repeated words, actions or behaviour by a co-worker that are hostile, humiliating, unwanted and sexual in nature. It may take the form, for example, of unwanted advances or attention. These words, actions or behaviour affect your physical and psychological health and make your work environment an unhealthy one. Under these circumstances, a single serious incident can also be considered sexual harassment.
For example, a co-worker asks you indiscrete questions about your romantic relationships. Or when walking by, he purposely touches or brushes against you. You have asked him to stop, but he acts as though he didn’t hear you.
Here are other examples of behaviour that may be associated with sexual harassment:
- Making inappropriate remarks about someone’s physical appearance.
- Whistling at someone in relation to their physical appearance.
- Making sexual advances that the other person does not consent to.
- Threatening someone who refuses one’s sexual advances.
Discriminatory harassment is when words, actions or behaviour by a co-worker are repeatedly hostile, humiliating or unwanted and they are aimed at one or more of your personal characteristics. These words, actions or behaviours affect your physical and psychological health and make your work environment an unhealthy one. Under these circumstances, a single serious incident can also be considered discriminatory harassment.
Words, actions and behaviours can be considered discriminatory if they have to do with your:
- Social condition
- Political beliefs
- Civil status
- Handicap or method used to cope with a handicap
- Gender identity or gender expression
- Sexual orientation
- Race, colour and ethnic or national origin
Consult the website of the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse (CDPDJ) for a definition of each of the motives for discrimination.
For example, a co-worker insults you or repeatedly makes fun of your ethnic background or the fact that you are a woman.
Some other examples of behaviour that may be associated with discriminatory harassment:
- Isolating a person because of their ethnic background.
- Repeatedly making fun of someone’s handicap following their return to work after an accident.
- Denigrating someone because of their language or accent.
- Making inappropriate comments about someone’s religion.
- Spreading false rumours about a person in relation to their sexual orientation.
What to do in case of harassment?
You should inform your employer or a person designated by your employer when you believe that you have been the victim of psychological, sexual or discriminatory harassment in the workplace.
Your employer is required to intervene when made aware of a harassment situation. The employer is also required to put in place a harassment prevention and complaints handling policy.
These are other steps that you can take:
- When the work is subject to the grievance procedure, you can contact your union to file a grievance.
- When the work is not subject to the grievance procedure, you can file a complaint with the Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST) if you believe that you have been the victim of psychological, sexual or discriminatory harassment. You can also file a complaint with the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse (CDPDJ) if you believe that you have been a victim of discriminatory or sexual harassment. Each of these bodies can help you to determine what recourse is best in you situation.
- In all cases, regardless of whether the work is subject or not to the grievance procedure, you can file a claim with the CNESST if you had to be absent from work due to harassment that you suffered (for example: you were diagnosed with depression or post-traumatic shock, etc.).
You have the right to report a harassment situation. Neither your co-worker or your employer has the right to take punitive action against you because you filed a complaint.
Requesting the involvement of a CNESST inspector
You can request that a CNESST inspector visit your job site or workplace when you believe you have been the victim of harassment. The inspector can, among other things, check to see if measures exist to prevent and put an end to the harassment in your workplace.
For more information about the procedure, consult the CNESST website.
A co-worker is threatening me or is being violent toward me
The behaviour of a co-worker on a job site or elsewhere may be criminal in nature. You can file a complaint with the police if you believe that you have been the victim or witness of a crime.
The following are a few examples of criminal behaviour or acts.
Threatening to kill or to hurt someone or to damage their property is forbidden under the Criminal Code. A person does not have to execute their threat for it to be considered a crime.
For example, a co-worker threatens to hit you or to wreck your equipment.
Using physical force against another person without their consent is against the law. When it occurs, it is considered an “assault”. You could be the victim of an assault even if you have suffered no physical injury.
For example, a co-worker punches you or throws an object at you to try to hurt you or intimidate you.
Sexual assault involves any sexual activity that occurs without the consent of the person being assaulted. It could be a kiss, a caress or having sex. There doesn’t need to be physical violence or injury.
For example, a co-worker kisses you or touches your behind without your consent.
Criminal harassment is where a person acts in such a way as to make you fear for your safety, and the person continues to do so even though they know you feel harassed.
For example, a co-worker follows you everywhere you go or sends you messages several times a day despite the fact that you have told her to stop.