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Recognizing psychological or sexual harassment

Psychological or sexual harassment in the workplace can be hard to recognize. Behaviour that constitutes harassment is sometimes hard to identify initially. The harasser may even be unaware of what they are doing. Here are some examples of behaviour that could constitute harassment:

  • preventing a person from expressing themselves – constantly interrupting them, prohibiting them from talking to others 
  • isolating a person – no longer talking to them in public, no longer talking to them at all, ignoring them, leaving them out, depriving them of means of communication (telephone, computer, mail, etc.), preventing others from talking to them 
  • discrediting a person – spreading rumours about them, ridiculing them, humiliating them, questioning their beliefs or private life, insulting them or harassing them sexually 
  • belittling a person – no longer giving them tasks to perform, making them perform tasks that are demeaning, absurd or below their skill level, unfairly accusing them of professional errors, disparaging them in front of others 
  • threatening, assaulting a person – shouting, yelling, shoving them, damaging their property
  • destabilizing a person – making fun of their beliefs, the fact that they have difficulty speaking a language other than French or that they demand to exercise the right to express themselves in French, their tastes, political choices, sexual orientation or weaknesses, making offensive inuendos, questioning their judgment and decision-making ability
  • any form of unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature 
  • comments, jokes or pictures of a sexual nature sent by any means, technological or otherwise 

Preventing and responding to harassment

Difficult situations or conflicts in the workplace can lead to harassment if they are not dealt with promptly. These video clips show 4 examples of problematic situations in the workplace and what can be done to help resolve them.

The office – a conflict between 2 workers that is dealt with by the employer (In French only)
A small business owner has to intervene when a conflict arises between 2 staff members and take steps to restore the work environment.

The grocery store – exercising the right to manage (In French only)
A worker has difficulty adjusting to the arrival of a new manager. The manager must exercise her right to manage to ensure the business runs smoothly. 

The printing works – a situation of psychological harassment in the workplace (In French only)
A supervisor makes remarks and acts in a manner that is offensive towards a worker. The worker quits his job. The employer intervenes to resolve the situation. 

The restaurant – a situation of psychological harassment in the workplace (In French only)
A situation of psychological harassment develops between 2 waitresses. The waitress who feels she is being harassed quits her job. Her employer draws conclusions from the situation.   

Examples will help you understand more clearly what is and what is not psychological harassment. The guide Comprendre et prévenir le harcèlement psychologique au travail [Understanding and preventing psychological harassment in the workplace; French only] will help employers understand their obligations. 

Laws and regulations

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