One in four women say they have experienced inappropriate sexual behaviour at work, according to Statistics Canada’s Survey of Sexual Misconduct in the Workplace. The study, released in early August 2021, reveals that harassment is still very much in the workplace, even in the age of the # MeToo movement.
Inappropriate comments, dirty jokes, unwanted touching: these are some of the gestures that survive despite the impact and extent of the #MeToo whistleblowing movement. It’s like crossing a hurdle to make a public disclosure leading to litigation involving an employer. And that’s where more than half of the victims in these situations get discouraged, and don’t report the incident to their organization or to a person in a position of authority.
Victims either don’t report them because of a lack of confidence in the process with their employer or simply to avoid this source of stress and anxiety. Plus, the Statistics Canada report shows that 32% of women and 26% of men said that their employer had not provided them with any information regarding the reporting procedures in place regarding cases of sexual harassment and sexual assault.
A situation that must be corrected, according to Manon Poirier, Executive Director of the Ordre des CRHA. “To encourage whistleblowing and to provide a framework for organizations to handle complaints, I consider that the investigation following a harassment complaint, with the possibility of mediation at any time, should be made mandatory for employers,” she explains.
Remote work doesn’t mean an end to harassment
In spite of remote work having no physical contact, workplace harassment has not taken a break! In fact, cyberharrassment invades communications between remote colleagues and continues to wreak havoc. The phenomenon can even be amplified by remote work: victims are less inclined to file complaints “remotely”, while prevention and case management become more complex.
“On the one hand, people are less patient in their communications, and on the other, more sensitive to the messages they receive”, says Manon Poirier. According to her, employers should pay close attention to the following issues:
- Bias in the perception of written communications;
- Isolation of workers;
- Unacceptable behaviour less visible to others;
- Constant communications at any time of day.
Employers need to be extra vigilant in protecting their workers, especially when this wrong becomes invisible.