As an employer, sexual harassment at work place should be something that you should take very seriously. In order to do this, you must draft an effective sexual harassment policy. The Division XV.1 of Part III of the Canada Labour Code gives an employee the right to have an employment free of sexual harassment. The code requires employers to take affirmative action to prevent any instance of sexual harassment in the work place. The code also requires employers to make every reasonable effort to ensure that no employee is subjected to sexual harassment. As a result, every employer is required to issue a policy on sexual harassment. The act requires the policy to at least contain the following provisions:
a definition of sexual harassment that is substantially the same as the one in the Code;
This states that the harassment policy drafted by the employer’s definition of sexual harassment should be similar to the one in the code and should not deviate from the definition provided by the Canada Labour Code.
a statement to the effect that every employee is entitled to employment free of sexual harassment;
The code states that every organization/employer is required to issue a company policy that entitles every employee in the company a right to work in an environment that is free of sexual harassment.
a statement to the effect that the employer will make every reasonable effort to ensure that no employee is subjected to sexual harassment;
While drafting the policy, the organization should make it very clear in writing that the company will do everything in its power to make sure that any employee under contractual obligation of the organization will not be subjected to any kind of sexual harassment.
a statement to the effect that the employer will take disciplinary measures against any person under his or her direction who subjects any employee to sexual harassment;
The inclusion of this code in the act states that the employer will harbour zero tolerance towards any kind of act that falls under the code of sexual harassment as specified by the Canada Labour Code. This includes taking disciplinary action against the accused who is instigating the act against another employee.
a statement explaining how complaints of sexual harassment may be brought to the attention of the employer;
The employer should articulate information regarding the process of filing a complaint against a co-worker who is subjecting the person in question to any kind of sexual harassment. This will also include specifying the committee member or HR personnel to approach if ever such a situation arises.
a statement to the effect that the employer will not disclose the name of the complainant or the circumstances related to the complaint to any person unless disclosure is necessary for the purposes of investigating the complaint or taking disciplinary measures in relation to the complaint;
It should be made very clear in the policy that the complainant’s identity and any other information that might lead to the complainant’s identity being revealed should be kept under wraps. The only exception being the case where the revelation of identity will be required in order to assist the ongoing investigation or when it comes to taking disciplinary action.
a statement informing employees of their right to make a complaint under the Canadian Human Rights Act.
Employers have to be very clear about how the employee can move forward with their complaint and approach higher authorities to file a complaint under the Canadian Human Rights Act.
Other than the provisions mentioned above, keep the language concise and clear. Also look at what other organizations are doing in terms of protecting their employees from any kind of sexual harassment. Although the provisions provided by the Canadian Human Rights Act are sufficient, looking at other examples will help you adopt global best practices. If you are having trouble drafting an effective sexual harassment policy or would like to get in touch with an expert attorney to help you out with the policy then get in touch with us.