to address harassment, bullying and discrimination

 with Stephen Hammond


Is there a loophole if harassment is overheard by a "third party" - someone to whom the comment or joke wasn't directed? There’s no loophole for addressing such behaviour.


Remember that in 1989, the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously said "sexual harassment in the workplace may be broadly defined as unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature that detrimentally affects the work environment or leads to adverse job-related consequences for the victims of the harassment." And remember this definition also applies similarly to other forms of protected human rights grounds, such as race, place of origin, religion, etc.


As per the definition of harassment, if a person hears comments that are unwelcome and cause a negative impact, then you've either got harassment, or the beginnings of harassment. So, if you get the sense that your employees assume they can say whatever they want at their desks and in the lunch room and tough luck for anyone who happens to be within earshot, set them straight. Harassment is harassment and it doesn't matter whether a person is a first, second or third party to the harassment.



1) Just think of the definition - and don't worry about side issues. What a wonderful loophole it would be if someone wanted to get to me with an outrageous comment, just by saying, "it wasn't intended for your ears". If the comments fit the definition of harassment, then that's what you deal with.

2) Opinions also count - and aren't another loophole. Many people say, "well, it's just my opinion," thinking that's not hurtful or a legal problem. Who knows what is opinion and what is not? If comments are hurtful and they have a negative impact, that's what you need to deal with.

3) Facts also count - regardless of what they feel. I've heard people say, "it's a fact" as an excuse for allowing all kinds of outrageous comments. For example, "this group is cheap" or "that group can't drive and causes all the accidents." In almost all cases there are few facts and loads of stereotypes. And let's even go out on a limb and say there are some facts that have some truth to them. So what? That doesn't mean it has to be repeated at work when it has a negative impact.

This is TIP #4 of 26 BI-WEEKLY TIPS for managers and supervisors. 
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