This is just general information, not legal advice. If you need legal advice about your specific situation, we urge you to find a lawyer who can help you.
There is no single legal definition for sexual harassment. But it is generally defined as something like this: unwanted behaviour related to a person’s sex or gender that may harm, offend, or humiliate the person who is being harassed.
Under Canadian laws, sexual harassment is prohibited. People have the right not to be sexually harassed at work, and employers have an obligation to provide a workplace that’s free of harassment. Everybody has a responsibility to not sexually harass other people.
Who gets sexually harassed the most?
Most people who get sexually harassed are women. Otherwise, the people who get sexually harassed don’t have much in common.
- Sexual harassment happens to people of all ages.
- It happens to people no matter what they look like.
- It happens to people no matter how they dress.
- It happens to people no matter how they behave.
Do some kinds of people get harassed more than others?
Yes. Harassers tend to choose:
- people who are new to a workplace
- people who are new to an industry
- racialized people
- people with disabilities
- people who are 2SLGBTQIA+
- immigrants and refugees
- people who have less workplace power than the harasser does
Sexual harassment happens in all kinds of workplaces and industries. But there are some environments where it’s more common than others:
- workplaces where there are lots of men and very few women
- service-sector jobs, especially bars and restaurants
- jobs where you work alone with a man
- jobs where you work in somebody’s home
Sexual harassment thrives in organizations that have a preponderance of men, turn a blind eye to bad behavior, neglect respect and fairness, and/or promote dysfunctional masculinity contests.Lilia M. Cortina, professor of psychology, Women’s and Gender Studies, University of Michigan.
Maira A. Areguin, graduate student, Joint Program in Women’s and Gender Studies and Personality & Social Contexts, University of Michigan.
“Putting People Down and Pushing Them Out: Sexual Harassment in the Workplace.“
Some common examples of sexual harassment
- Someone is hugging or touching you without your consent.
- Someone is asking you out repeatedly or is sexually propositioning you.
- Someone is invading your personal space or staring at you in a sexual way.
- Someone is talking about you, or to you, in a sexual way.
- Someone is displaying or showing or sending you sexual imagery.
- Someone is sharing sexual images of you with other people.
- Someone is making sexual jokes to you or in front of you.
- Someone is trying to make you behave in a more feminine or masculine way.
- Someone is making fun of the way you look or act because it doesn’t conform to gender stereotypes.
- Someone is using gender-based slurs about you or in front of you.
- Someone is spreading rumours about your sex, sexual behaviour, gender identity, or gender expression.
- Someone is asking you questions about your sex, sexual behaviour, gender identity, or gender expression.
- Someone is withholding job-related information from you, or is making it difficult in some other way for you to do your job because of your sex, gender identity, or gender expression.
- Someone is making you feel not accepted, or unsafe, because of your sex, gender identity, or gender expression.