to address harassment, bullying and discrimination
with Stephen Hammond
Tip #7 — THERE ARE NO LOOPHOLES FOR 3RD PARTY HARASSMENT
So what happens if harassment is overheard by a "third party" - someone to whom the comment or joke wasn't directed? Watch out, because the courts and tribunals aren't interested in creating loopholes.
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 for 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 lunchroom 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 loop hole 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 loop hole. Many people say, "well, it's just an 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 saying, "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.