Sexual harassment is on everyone’s lips these days. That’s courtesy of the roaring torrent of accusations of inappropriate sexual behaviour of which a certain Hollywood bigwig has been in recent receipt.
Harvey Weinstein is a fatcat Tinseltown producer who’s been accused of more impropriety in this middle stretch of October than most of us have had hot dinners. And the screaming headlines and laser focus on the subject have prompted a cultural awakening of sorts, with women everywhere taking stock of their workplace arrangements and the sexual misdemeanours they may have suffered inside them.
And there are lots.
In 2016, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission released a comprehensive study of workplace harassment in the States that concluded that “anywhere from 25% to 85% of women report having experienced sexual harassment in the workplace.” That means, in even the most conservative estimate, that one employee in every four offices, in every four factories and school boards and Burger Kings, is getting sexually harassed.
In Canada, the numbers Angus Reid’s most recent study on the subject uncovered are even more damning. Three in 10 Canadians have been the recipients of “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favours or sexually charged talk while on the job.”
And CanadianLabourrelations.com, the labour relations website for a Vancouver-based private labour relations consulting agency, reports that more than 90% of Canadian women have experienced this type of harassment at some point during their working lives.
Given that alarming backdrop, a brief primer on the stuff in this country:
- Workplace sexual harassment is any “unwanted sexual behaviour” that occurs in a work-related environment. It includes sexual touching, sexual humour and commentary, and displays of a sexual nature that are demeaning and humiliating to a person.
- Young women are the most likely to be sexually harassed, say the last reported sexual harassment statistics for Canada. Ten percent of women aged 18 to 24 have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace within the previous 12 months.
- Single women, even if they’re older, are also likely targets for this brand of harassment. The members of this cohort between the ages of 25 and 45 experience sexual harassment at the same rate as women between 18 and 24 in Canada.
- Workers in Canada are protected against sexual harassment on various channels. The Canada Labour Code, the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Canada Criminal Code all feature stipulations against such behaviour. And employers themselves bear a significant legal responsibility on this front. They are obliged to provide workers with a workplace environment that’s safe and free from harassment. And they can be held liable for situations in which complaints are not adequately addressed.
Would-be Harvey Weinsteins take note.