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Situations that are considered psychological or sexual harassment

Between 2 members of management

Éléna is a manager in a young company that has 20 employees and manufactures polymer panels for the automotive industry. Working conditions have always been difficult but there is a good atmosphere between coworkers and Éléna enjoys her work. Everything changes when the boss’s cousin is made workshop director. She makes Éléna supervise the employees too much and time their breaks. She reprimands her when she hums or laughs a little as she works. The director arranges it so that Éléna is no longer informed about the company’s social activities.

Éléna is held responsible for computer errors the director has made and is taken off some of her files. When Éléna tries to stand up for herself, she is given an office where she is isolated from other people. She becomes less and less valuable to her boss. Feeling desperate about her deteriorating work situation, she decides to resign.

Between a group and a person

Normand is an industrial mechanic. A few of his coworkers think he is too conventional and have fun playing pranks on him at work. In collusion with employees from other workshops, they often arrange it so that Normand does not report to the right place at the right time.

Shy by nature, Normand does not know how to react or whom to trust at the plant. Being late repeatedly and showing up in departments he was never asked to report to or at meetings he was never invited to gradually crushes him. People make fun of him at work. His reputation for punctuality and his credibility are seriously undermined.

Normand decides to tells someone he trusts what is going on. At this person’s suggestion, he meets with his employer and tells him about all the minor incidents which, taken together, explain a lot. The employer takes what Normand tells him very seriously. He intervenes quickly to put an end to the situation.

Behaviour of a sexual nature

Anna is an architect in a small firm that is run by 2 people. One of the partners is on maternity leave. During her absence, Anna works alone with the other partner on different projects. She is unsettled by the partner’s behaviour. For instance, he caresses her thighs under the table when he sits next to her at a meeting or wipes imaginary stains off the front of her dress when he goes by.

One day, he slaps her bottom when they are going upstairs and propositions her directly. Anna rejects all his advances. Given her refusal to give in to his advances, the partner starts to insult her on an almost daily basis and questions her ability to do her work. Anna cries at the office and at home. She has difficulty sleeping at night. One day, when she is discussing an important mandate with a client, the partner accuses her of wasting time chatting instead of working. He threatens to fire her. 

A single serious incident

Olivia has been working as a salesperson in a jewelry store for just over a year. She works with 4 other employees and their boss, Simone, who owns the store. Olivia had always got on well with everyone until she had a few run-ins with her coworker, Lucie. 

The situation deteriorated when Olivia learned that Lucie often talked about her behind her back. Simone tried to reduce the tension between the two workers by asking both of them to come to a meeting the following morning. At the meeting, each of them was asked to give their version of the events. When it was Lucie’s turn, she made very hurtful comments about Olivia and was very aggressive and provocative. She yelled at her, telling her she should resign for everyone’s sake and for the sake of the store. Despite Simone’s repeated requests, Lucie gave full vent to her anger in a tone and a manner that were totally inappropriate. 

During the meeting, Olivia was the victim of intolerable verbal abuse in the workplace. She had to take a few days off because she was afraid of returning to work and having to face Lucie. 

Situations that are not considered psychological or sexual harassment

Right to manage

Mathilde and Ismaël are receptionists in a veterinary clinic. Ismaël has a few more months of seniority than Mathilde. But, 2 months ago, Mathilde was promoted to the position of head receptionist. She is now responsible for hiring, evaluating and managing the team of receptionists. 

Ismaël filed a complaint with the CNESST, claiming that Mathilde had been harassing him for a month. He found it hard to accept that she had been promoted and his heart was no longer in his work. He was careless in his work and often arrived late. Mathilde had to reprimand him several times, but in vain. After asking him to come to work on time several times, she even had to impose a sanction and suspend him without pay for one day. 

Assigning tasks, evaluating performance and imposing disciplinary measures are part of an employer’s right to manage. Exercising this right, even if it is not to the liking of the people concerned, does not constitute psychological harassment.

Work conflict

Inès and Louise have been working on the same team for several months. Inès was recently put in charge of a project to construct a new building. Louise refuses to accept this appointment. Her behaviour towards Inès changed and she let her know that she felt that she should have been the one to be given this responsibility. She limits her collaboration on the project and no longer speaks to Inès at all. Relations between the two are strained, which is causing serious communication problems. The situation could deteriorate if nothing is done to resolve the conflict.

Work-related stress

Sacha has worked as a computer analyst for the same company for over 5 years. His director offers to promote him to department head. Sacha will have to manage a team, but has no management experience. Despite this, he accepts the promotion. At first, everything seems to be going smoothly. It is only after a while that he starts to have doubts about his skills and his ability to motivate his staff. He has a lot of difficulty managing the stress associated with his new responsibilities. The stress even starts to have physical and psychological effects: headaches, insomnia, anxiety. His director meets with him on a regular basis to take stock of the situation and to offer his help if he needs it. There is nothing threatening or humiliating in these frequent interventions, which are intended to help him with his new responsibilities. But Sacha doesn’t appreciate them.

Laws and regulations

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