Sexually Harassed At Work? Here’s How To File A Formal Complaint

A coast-to-coast resource guide for Canadians.

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sexual harassment resource guide canada

Photo, Willie B. Thomas.

If you experience sexual harassment at work, navigating how to report it can be tricky. While most workplaces have sexual harassment and bullying policies, and people who have collective agreements may have recourse through a union, there are many scenarios (like when your boss is the one harassing you) where going to HR or your union could be unfruitful. And in some cases, neither may be an option — for instance, if you work for a small business with no HR department.

If you’re out of options, each province and territory has a process to file a formal complaint if you feel you are being sexually harassed, which is generally defined as unwelcome advances or comments that can create a hostile or offensive work environment, ultimately making it difficult to do your job.

There is also a national body, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, which deals with complaints related to federal government departments and agencies, and other federally regulated employers. Provinces and territories generally deal with all other types of employers — both public and private.

Filing a complaint can be an arduous process that can take time and have an emotional toll. These resources can help you decide whether or not you want to file a formal complaint — providing information on the types of complaints that can be made to human rights bodies, the kind of evidence you need to provide (for instance, you may need show that a less formal resolution method has been attempted), the time frame in which that complaint needs to be made, and what you can expect the process to look like.

Here’s a guide to finding more information by province/territory:

Alberta

Sexual harassment is covered under the Alberta Human Rights Law.

Alberta Human Rights Commission: The body has created a handy info sheet on sexual harassment, and in addition to being responsible for public education around human rights, it is also the organization that handles human rights complaints.

Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta: This non-profit organization aims to make justice accessible by providing plain-language information (including about sexual harassment), and legal referrals.

So You’ve Been Harassed At Work — Should You Go To HR?So You’ve Been Harassed At Work — Should You Go To HR?

British Columbia

Harassment is defined in the B.C. Human Rights Code.

WorkSafe B.C.: The province included bullying and harassment as conditions employers are responsible to guard against in B.C.’s update to its workers’ compensation law in 2012.

B.C. Human Rights Clinic: This clinic helps people understand how the human rights code applies to them and, for those who qualify, provides assistance in the form of advocates and legal representation through the process of filing a human rights complaint.

B.C. Human Rights Tribunal: This is the body to file a formal sexual harassment complaint with.

Manitoba

Sexual harassment is covered under the Manitoba Human Rights Code.

Manitoba Human Rights Commission: Complaints covered by the code can be made with this body.

Community Legal Education Association: This non-profit provides legal information and also legal referrals.

New Brunswick

Sexual harassment is covered under the New Brunswick Human Rights Act.

New Brunswick Human Rights Commission: This is the body that handles formal complaints under the act.

Public Legal Education and Information Service of New Brunswick: This non-profit, bilingual organization provides educational resources on harassment and responds to individual questions about the law.

Newfoundland and Labrador

Sexual harassment is covered under the province’s Human Rights Act.

Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights Commission: Handles both education and formal complaints process.

Public Legal Information Association of Newfoundland and Labrador: Provides educational resources and legal referrals.

Northwest Territories

Sexual harassment is covered under the NWT Human Rights Act.

NWT Human Rights Commission: This is the body to file a formal complaint with.

Nova Scotia

Sexual harassment is covered under the province’s Human Rights Act.

Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission: This is the body to file formal complaints with.

Nunavut

Sexual harassment is covered under the province’s Human Rights Act.

Nunavut Human Rights Tribunal: This is the body to file formal complaints with.

Legal Information Society of Nova Scotia: This organization helps educate Nova Scotians on their legal rights and also provides legal referrals.

Ontario

Sexual harassment is covered under the Ontario Human Rights Code.

Ontario Human Rights Tribunal: This is the body to file formal complaints with.

Ontario Human Rights Legal Support Centre: This organization provides legal assistance filing applications and, if you qualify, may also provide legal representation.

Ontario Human Rights Commission: This organization works to promote and protect human rights.

Prince Edward Island

Sexual harassment is included under the P.E.I. Human Rights Act.

Prince Edward Island Human Rights Commission: This is the body to make a formal complaint with.

Community Legal Information Association of PEI: This non-profit organization provides legal information and resources to Islanders.

Quebec

Sexual harassment is covered under labour standards law, under psychological harassment.

Labour Standards, Pay Equity, Workplace Health and Safety Board: This is the body which you can file a formal complaint to.

Educaloi: This non-profit organization provides plain-language legal information and aims to improve access to justice in Quebec.

Saskatchewan

Sexual harassment is included under the province’s human rights code and employment law.

Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission: Formal complaints under the human rights code are made through this body.

Saskatchewan Occupational Health and Safety: Harassment is also included in the province’s Employment Act, which allows for a different complaint process.

Yukon

Sexual harassment is covered under the territory’s Human Rights Act.

Yukon Human Rights Commission: Formal complaints under the law are made with this body.

Yukon Public Legal Education Association: This non-profit organization provides legal education and a legal information hotline.