Sexual harassment: reprehensible behaviour and possible sentences

In Canada, 43% of women in the workforce say they’ve been a victim of some form of sexual harassment. And we don’t mean flirting or joking around. We’re talking about a form of discrimination, based on an individual’s gender, that occurs in the workplace, in schools, in public spaces (parks, transport, streets, pools, etc.) and even online (social media, email and more).

Often insidious and subtil, it manifests in the form of gestures, words and actions that intimidate, offend and humiliate the other person. It’s an act of violence that degrades the victim and can eventually lead to criminal accusations.

Similar to racial discrimination, the law defines it as such :

  • Unwanted verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature,
  • which is repetitive,
  • and has a negative impact on the victim.

The different faces of sexual harassment

What is considered sexual harassment? Where do we draw the line between flirtation, inappropriate behaviour and harassment?

According to the Criminal Code, a person who initiates sexual contact must always confirm consent. This means that directing behaviour, words or actions of a sexual nature towards a non-consenting person could be defined as sexual harassment. However, not all inappropriate behaviour will necessarily lead to criminal accusations.

Sexual harassment at work

Harassment can occur in different ways. It can happen in the workplace, but also in other environments. Here are ways it can transpire at work:

  • Sexual advances made by a boss to an employee;
  • Inappropriate behaviour or dirty jokes directed from one employee to another;
  • Asking for unwanted sexual favors;
  • Indiscreet questioning on a person’s personal and intimate life;
  • Whistling and staring inappropriately;
  • Sharing pornographic images without the person’s consent.

What actions can you take if you are accused?

If you’re accused of sexual harassment, the victim can ask for moral or punitive compensation. To properly defend your case, hire a lawyer who can help prepare your defense, then coach and support you during your hearing.

The Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms prohibits all forms of harassment based on a person’s gender, race or religion, inside or outside the workplace. If a person presses charges against you, you have a right to a lawyer in order to present your version of the situation.

If you need defense for a sexual harassment charge, contact experienced criminal lawyer Martine Thibodeau, who has defended clients for over 25 years. She will support you throughout the entire process of defending your rights.

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