No. If the behaviour creates a poisoned environment but is not targeted at any one person, it would be considered to be sexual harassment. Sexual graffiti, the posting of sexual pictures or repeatedly telling dirty jokes would be examples.
Yes, a finding of sexual harassment can occur even though the respondent had no intention of harassing the person on the receiving end. The effect of the behaviour on the person subjected to the behaviour is a deciding factor in a finding of sexual harassment, not whether there is an intention to sexually harass. Thus statements such as “I meant it as a compliment”, “I had not realized she was offended” would not prevent the behaviour from being considered sexual harassment if a reasonable person would have known that the behaviour was unwelcome. As an analogy, in the criminal justice system, a person may be found guilty of manslaughter if the person’s actions caused the death of the other even though there was no intent to kill.
Yes, sexual harassment can occur between persons of the same sex. Refer to the definition of sexual harassment.
Not necessarily. I might feel forced to participate in a behaviour that is unwelcome because I am afraid of the consequences, that is, I perceive a risk of retaliation if I refuse the sexual request. As mentioned previously, in situations where a power differential exists between the parties, agreement to a behaviour or participation in the behaviour does not mean the person is consenting. (See Robichaud and Dupuis)
It depends on the severity of the behaviour. If one single incident can reasonably be considered to create a negative psychological and emotional environment for work or study, then there is no need for repetition for the behaviour to constitute sexual harassment. Examples would be a sexual assault or losing a tangible benefit after refusing a sexual request. Generally, comments of a sexual nature would have to occur repeatedly for the behaviour to be considered sexual harassment.
If the sexual harassment occurs in the context of the work environment, then a complaint can be filed. In Simpson v Consumers’ Association of Canada (2001), the Ontario Court of Appeal stated that the workplace was not confined to the office or to regular working hours.
Module 2: Responding to Sexual Harassment
Agreements comprise a set of conditions which represent an acceptable solution to both the complainant and respondent and the University.
For example, an agreement might consist of the respondent accepting to apologize to the complainant and to receive some instruction on sexual harassment, and the complainant accepting that these conditions satisfactorily resolve his or her complaint and agreeing not to pursue the matter further.
Here’s another example of a written agreement
Agreement between Complainant X and Respondent Y
Respondent Y admits the conduct as described in the sexual harassment complaint lodged by Complainant X.
Respondent Y accepts to take steps to modify his or her behaviour by seeking psychological counselling and accepts that the University will send a copy of the complaint, his response to the complaint and the present agreement to the treating psychologist.
Complainant X consents to the release of these documents to the treating psychologist provided complainant X’s identity is removed from the documents.
Respondent Y accepts that the complaint, response and agreement will be placed on his or her personal file for a period of 5 years.
Complainant X and Respondent Y both agree to keep the matter of the sexual harassment complaint and its resolution confidential.
Complainant X agrees not to pursue any other legal or quasi-legal actions against the University or against Respondent X in the matter of the sexual harassment complaint lodged at the University.
Complainant X accepts that the present agreement is a satisfactory resolution to the sexual harassment complaint lodged against Respondent Y.
If the complaint results in a written agreement where conditions stipulate that the matter be placed on file, then it will be part of the file. If the agreement has no such condition, then the matter will not be in your file.
If there is a decision by the University that sexual harassment occurred, the sanctions would most probably include a note on file.
Complaints resolved informally do not include placing a note on file.
The University Policy mandates strict confidentiality with respect to complaints on sexual harassment. The complainants, respondents, witnesses, and any person dealing with the complaint have a duty to maintain confidentiality.
Possible sanctions under University Policy include but are not limited to:
Expulsion or dismissal
Human Rights Office
1 Stewart St.
(Main Floor – Room 121)
Ottawa, ON, Canada