Template: Policy and Procedures

This word document file provides a best practices guide to creating workplace sexual harassment policy and procedures.

  1. Scope and Jurisdiction

1.1      The <<BUSINESS NAME>>      Workplace Sexual Harassment Policy and Procedures apply to all employees, volunteers, and contractors.

1.2      Any clients or customers of <<BUSINESS NAME>>      who subject an employee, volunteer or contractor to workplace sexual harassment and are not captured by this Policy will be denied services and may be subject to further action as determined by applicable safe workplace legislation, regulations or other occupational health and safety requirements.

  1. Purpose

2.1      <<BUSINESS NAME>>      is committed to providing a safe and welcome working environment in which its employees, volunteers and contractors are treated with respect and dignity and have the right to work in an environment free from sexual harassment.

2.2      As part of this commitment, this Policy is aimed at preventing and resolving communication, behaviour or conduct that constitutes sexual harassment as defined in the British Columbia Human Rights Code and further recognized by the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal, for provincially regulated organizations; and the Canada Labour Code as well as the Canadian Human Rights Act, for federally regulated organizations.

2.3      <<BUSINESS NAME>>       will not tolerate any form of sexual harassment by its employees, contractors, volunteers, clients or customers.

2.4      This Policy provides direction on responding to disclosures and reports of workplace sexual harassment in an intersectional, trauma-informed and survivor-centered way. This Policy also includes procedures for investigating reports of sexual harassment. 

2.5      Every employee, volunteer or contractor who comes forward with information about having experienced or witnessed workplace sexual harassment will:

  1. be treated with respect, understanding and empathy;
  2. be informed about their options for proceeding and the procedures therein;
  3. be offered support or assistance in accessing external supports;
  4. be offered the opportunity to submit a formal report within the organization and/or to a local police agency, and
  5. Be offered support with developing a safety plan irrespective of whether they choose to report or not report.      

2.6      Every employee, volunteer or contractor has an obligation to understand this Policy and how it applies to their employment, volunteering or contract work at <<BUSINESS NAME>>.    

  1. Definitions

3.1      For the purposes of this Policy, the following definitions apply.

“BYSTANDER” means an employee who is an observer to one or more incidents of sexual harassment.

“COMPLAINANT” means a person who reports workplace sexual harassment.

CONSENT” means a voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity. All sexual activity must be consented to by both parties for it to be legal. Sexual touching is only lawful if a person affirmatively communicates their consent, whether through words or conduct. Silence or passivity does not equal consent. Consent cannot be obtained or freely given where a power imbalance exists or where threats or intimidation have been conveyed, verbally or otherwise. Sexual behaviour without consent is sexual assault or sexual harassment.

“CONTRACTOR” means a person who has been contracted on a short-term or limited basis to complete specific services for <<BUSINESS NAME>>     .

DISCLOSURE” means disclosing or sharing one or more experiences of sexual harassment in or connected to the workplace. A Disclosure is not the same as a Report.

EMPLOYEE” includes full-time, part-time and casual employees.

INTERSECTIONAL” means the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage.

PROCEDURAL FAIRNESS” means ensuring that the Respondent is provided with a copy of the Report of sexual harassment and informed of their rights and responsibilities including ensuring that a reasonable period of time is offered to respond to the report. Procedural Fairness also requires that the Respondent is given options on how they elect to proceed. These steps must be taken before any conclusions are drawn by a decision-maker or discipline is imposed.

REPORT” means to notify a co-worker, supervisor or colleague about one or more incidents of Sexual Harassment in or connected to the workplace with the expectation that immediate action will be taken on the Report by notifying the Respondent and proceeding to an investigation or an agreeable and reasonable informal resolution process.

RESPONDENT” means a person who is identified as committing Sexual Harassment.

RETALIATION” means any adverse action, communication or conduct, direct or indirect, including through social media, which is intended to be threatening or perceived to be threatening or harmful against any person who reports sexual harassment or any witness involved in a sexual harassment investigation.

SEXUAL HARASSMENT” means unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature that detrimentally affects the work environment or leads to adverse job-related consequences for the person who was sexually harassed. Conduct of a sexual nature includes:

  • unwelcome touching;
    • sexual assault;
    • sexual jokes;
    • comments directed at a colleague’s sexual orientation, gender, body or • • physical appearance;
    • innuendo;
    • romantic advances;
    • prolonged staring; and
    • sexually suggestive text messages, email or social media communications.

SURVIVOR” means someone who experienced sexual harassment, sexual assault or some other form of sexual violence.

SURVIVOR-CENTERED” means prioritizing the safety of an individual who has disclosed an experience of sexual harassment, sexual assault or some other form of sexual violence, inside or outside of the workplace.

THIRD-PARTY REPORT” means any anonymous or identified person inside or outside the employment of the organization and not directly engaged in workplace Sexual Harassment reporting an incident they observed or heard about to a supervisor or administrator within the organization.

TRAUMA-INFORMED” refers to process or approach and means any person responding to or investigating a Report of workplace Sexual Harassment will proceed in a manner that recognizes and respects the potential for trauma to surface in any party involved in the matter. Where trauma presents, the investigator will take steps to adapt their engagement and communication to avoid or minimize triggers and risks of re-traumatization.

VOLUNTEER” means any person delivering specific services on behalf of <<BUSINESS NAME>>      on a voluntary basis or outside of an employment agreement.

WORKPLACE” includes but is not limited to the physical office or workspace, work related social events, conferences and training events, and extends to electronic communications, especially when using technology, software or hardware belonging to <<BUSINESS NAME>>     .

WORKPLACE SAFETY PLAN” is a document outlining strategies for a Complainant to stay safe and to help reduce the risk of future harm by avoiding contact with the Respondent at the workplace, for example, ensuring Complainant’s work schedule is different from the Respondent . It includes planning to mitigate future incidences, identifies supports, resources and options to support for the Complainant to make informed decisions. 

  1. Responsible Authority

4.1      Where practicable, two senior leaders[1] will be considered a Responsible Authority for the operation of this Policy and its procedures. A Responsible Authority is empowered to make decisions related to workplace sexual harassment disclosures, reports, investigations, informal resolutions and disciplinary measures (when required).

4.2      The two responsible authorities for this Policy are:

  1. <<NAME>>,      <<TITLE>>, <<BUSINESS NAME>>               
  2. <<NAME>>,      <<TITLE>>, <<BUSINESS NAME>>    

4.3      Should a Responsible Authority leave their position or the organization, their replacement must be named within six (6) weeks of the Responsible Authority position becoming vacant. In the interim, the next most senior employee will assume responsibility for the operation of this Policy.

4.4      All new incoming Responsible Authority personnel must become trained in responding to and investigating workplace sexual harassment in a trauma-informed and procedurally fair manner within six (6) months of their appointment as a Responsible Authority for this Policy. A refresher course should be undertaken every two (2) years.

4.5      If a Responsible Authority is a Respondent to a Report of Sexual Harassment, that person will be removed as a Responsible Authority until the matter is resolved, and may be barred from becoming a Responsible Authority again.

  1. Disclosing Workplace Sexual Harassment

5.1      Any person who has experienced workplace Sexual Harassment can choose to disclose their experience to any other person within the organization. 

5.2      Where internal support services are not available, a Survivor will be referred to local external agencies for any necessary support services.

5.3      A Disclosure can be made without the requirement to submit a formal Report. Any person making a disclosure will be informed of the limits on privacy and confidentiality, as set out in Section 11.   

5.4      A Bystander who witnesses workplace Sexual Harassment and discloses their observations will receive support services equal to that of a Survivor.

5.5      A Bystander who has witnessed bullying and harassment in the workplace may be obligated to report their observations to a supervisor or manager, as per any intersecting occupational health and safety policies.

  1. Responding to a Disclosure

6.1      Any person receiving a Disclosure of workplace Sexual Harassment will respond in an empathetic, compassionate and supportive manner, free of judgement.

6.2      Any person receiving a Disclosure will keep and maintain confidentiality and will inform the Survivor of any limits on privacy and confidentiality, as set out in Section 11.

6.3      Any person receiving a Disclosure will ask the Survivor what action they would like taken on their Disclosure, if any. 

6.4      Any person receiving a Disclosure will provide reporting options, information and referrals, as set out in this Policy.

6.5      Any person receiving a Disclosure will not request details of the Survivor or engage in their own inquiry or investigation.

6.6      Any person receiving a Disclosure will provide the Survivor assistance with developing a Workplace Safety Plan to ensure the Survivor feels supported with staying safe from further sexual harassment at the workplace. Information and external resources will be identified for the Survivor to access counselling, specialized police/community based victim services, police, medical and other relevant supports as necessary.

  1. Reporting Workplace Sexual Harassment

7.1      A Report under the Policy can be submitted at any time, subject to any time constraints implemented by the Board of Directors. The Complainant and the Respondent must have been an Employee, Contractor or Volunteer of <<BUSINESS NAME>>      at the time of the incident of Sexual Harassment, in order to trigger an internal investigation process.

7.2      A Report must be submitted in writing to a Responsible Authority who is obligated to follow up within seven (7) business days of the submission. In the unlikely event of delay, the Responsible Authority must provide a written explanation for the delay and offer a new timeline.

7.3      If the behaviour related to the Sexual Harassment also falls under the jurisdiction of the Criminal Code, the Complainant may also submit a report to a local police authority for criminal investigation.

7.4      Where a criminal investigation is initiated, <<BUSINESS NAME>>       are obligated to proceed with an internal, administrative investigation, in order to ensure a safe work environment.

7.5      A Complainant has the right to withdraw a Report made to the Responsible Authority at any time. <<BUSINESS NAME>>      may have a legal responsibility to take steps to address the situation notwithstanding withdrawal of the Report. The Complainant will be informed when the investigation may proceed and/or when the matter is being forwarded to local authorities for criminal investigation.

7.6      Any Bystander, Third-Party, or anonymized Reports will be reviewed by a Responsible Authority to determine whether the incident occurred at the workplace and that there is enough evidence to confirm individual identified as associated with the workplace.

7.7      Where the first level of management is the Respondent, the Complainant may approach the Respondent’s supervisor.

7.8      An employee is not precluded from filing a complaint under human rights legislation; however, an employee will not be entitled to duplication of process. Once an investigation is initiated and concluded under this Policy, another reporting or investigative process for the same incident is not available under another <<BUSINESS NAME>>       policy.

  1. Responding to a Report

8.1      When a Responsible Authority receives a Report of Sexual Harassment, an immediate safety and/or risk assessment will be undertaken to ensure the immediate protection, health and safety of the Complainant. A Responsible Authority will assist the Complainant with developing a Workplace Safety Plan outlining community supports, resources and options available.

8.2      The Responsible Authority will ensure compliance with Procedural Fairness by informing the Respondent of the Report within seven (7) business days of its receipt as part of the initial review and follow up outlined in Section 8.5.

8.3      The Respondent will be provided a reasonable period of time to review the Report and this Policy so they may obtain further information, support and advice, if available, before responding to the Report.

8.4      If the Respondent admits to the conduct in the Report and where the criteria is met, the matter may proceed to an Informal Resolution option, as set out in Section 10. If an Informal Resolution is not possible, the matter will proceed directly to discipline or other measures.

8.5      Initial Assessment of the Report

8.5.1   The Responsible Authority will review the Report within 7 days determine whether the incident falls within the jurisdiction of <<BUSINESS NAME>>     .

8.5.2   Once jurisdiction is established, the Responsible Authority will assess the details of the incident to confirm whether it reasonably falls within this Policy.

8.5.3   If the initial assessment finds that jurisdiction has not been established or the incident does not appear to fall within this Policy, the Complainant will be notified as soon as possible. After which time, and in the absence of additional information which brings the report within the jurisdiction of <<BUSINESS NAME>>       and this Policy, the matter will be closed.      The responsible Authority will provide the Complainant and Respondent with resource information and referral to obtain ongoing and further support as needed.


8.6      If the Report meets the jurisdiction requirements and falls within this Policy, the Responsible Authority will assess the matter and consider whether an Informal Resolution process is a reasonable option. If so, the Complainant will be informed of the option and asked how they would like to proceed. 

8.7      If the Responsible Authority determines that the Report will proceed to an investigation then the investigator  will be assigned within five (5) business days, in accordance with Sections 8.9.1 and 8.9.2. The Complainant and Respondent will be informed of the decision to proceed to an investigation along with the identity of the investigator within 2 business days of assigning an investigator. If there is a delay, the Responsible Authority must provide written reasons for the delay to both parties and keep a copy of the reasons, for the record.

8.8      The Responsible Authority will ensure that safety measures are considered for both the Complainant and the Respondent. To ensure safety and avoid liability, the Responsible Authority will implement a fair process which includes assisting the Complainant with developing a Workplace Safety Plan to reassure them that the workplace is free from sexual harassment and violence, and provide the Respondent with legal services information and relevant resources to access further support as needed.

8.8      Upon assignment of the investigation, the investigator shall begin their interviews within 3 – 5 business days. 

8.9      Investigating the Report

8.9.1   The Responsible Authority will select an internal investigator who is trained in sexual harassment and trauma-informed workplace investigations to conduct the investigation. Where appropriate or necessary, the Responsible Authority may assign themselves to investigate.

8.9.2   The Responsible Authority may determine that an external investigator ought to be engaged to investigate due to one or more of the following factors:

  1. a conflict of interest is present for the assigned in-house investigator and could lead to a biased investigation;

  2. where there has been a lapse in compliance with Procedural Fairness afforded to the Respondent or the Complainant;

  3. additional information contained in the Report which suggest a potential violation of other policies and/or the law; or,

  4. where the subject matter and details are significantly complex and beyond the training of an in-house investigator.


8.9.3   The investigator will approach the investigation with respect for the parties and awareness that trauma or trigger responses that may present for either the Complainant or Respondent. Where trauma responses surface for the Respondent or Complainant, the investigator will adapt their interview approach to validate anxieties and avoid re-traumatizing or doing further harm.

8.9.4   Upon review of the Report and available evidence, the investigator will identify any witnesses in addition to the Complainant and Respondent who may have information directly relevant to the incident contained in the Report.

8.9.5   Throughout the investigation process, the investigator will ensure that both the Complainant and Respondent are provided with any new and emerging relevant details and provided an opportunity to respond.

8.9.6   The investigator will inform the Complainant and the Respondent that they may be accompanied by a support person to their interview. The support person cannot speak at the interview. The support person cannot be a family member or co-worker, except in cases where the support person is a union authority who is also a co-worker.  If the Complainant or Respondent retains or invites a lawyer, the investigator must be notified immediately.

8.10    After concluding the interviews, the investigator will commence with writing their investigation report and consider all the evidence to determine, on a balance of probabilities, whether the incident reported happened and meets the definition of workplace sexual harassment. If so, whether that conduct is a violation of the Policy.

8.11    Once the report is completed in a timely manner, the investigator will review their findings with the Responsible Authority.

8.12    The Complainant and the Respondent will be notified separately and in person of the findings made by the investigator. However, the report itself will remain confidential. Both the Complainant and the Respondent will be offered the opportunity to be joined by a support person at this meeting. In unionized workplaces, union members may be accompanied by a union representative.

8.13    If the Investigation concludes that the complaint is unfounded or didn’t produce enough material evidence to suggest, on the balance of probabilities, that the report was verifiable, the Responsible Authority will ensure procedural fairness to mitigate risk and provide resource information and options to the Complainant and Respondent.    

8.13    Any action taken by the Employer, including discipline, which is consistent with the findings of fact of the Investigator shall be considered by all parties to be determinative of the complaint.

  1. External Reporting of Workplace Sexual Harassment

9.1      Eligible WorkSafeBC[2] claimants who believe they have been the subject of workplace sexual harassment may also contact the WorkSafeBC Prevention Information Line or submit a complaint to WorkSafeBC on their website. This avenue should be used if <<BUSINESS NAME>>       has not taken reasonable steps to address the incident, or if the issue has not been resolved after reporting the incident. Complaints submitted to WorkSafeBC must be made within one (1) year from the date of the incident and do not need to be made against another employee of <<BUSINESS NAME>>.      

  1. Informal Resolution

10.1    An Informal Resolution is a diversion away from a formal investigation process, which also addresses the offending behavior and is guided by the collective commitment to restore work relationships and the workplace environment.

10.2    An Informal Resolution option is a Complainant driven process and can only be initiated where a Complainant freely opts into the process.

10.3    Informal Resolutions can include (but are not limited to) an apology, an accountability-focussed cooperative process that allows the perpetrator to meet with the victim and together discuss how to repair the harm, and come to resolutions with the objective to make transformational changes in their lives, an agreement to attend training and/or present at a workplace sexual harassment training session.

10.4    Where a Complainant who has experienced workplace Sexual Harassment expresses interest in resolving the sexually harassing behaviour by way of an Informal Resolution process, a Responsible Authority may canvass Informal Resolution options with both parties where:

  1. The harassing behaviour occurred once only or arose out of a single incident;
  2. The harassing behaviour did not include threats, bodily harm or compromise the physical safety of the Complainant and/or their colleagues;
  3. The harasser takes full responsibility for their offending behaviour; and
  4. The harasser agrees to provide a full apology and comply with any measures deemed reasonable and necessary.

10.5    It is recognized that power imbalances, intimidation and other factors may make an Informal Resolution option inappropriate. Accordingly, the Responsible Authority maintains final approval as to whether an Informal Resolution option is available in the context.

  1. Confidentiality and Privacy


11.1.   The information and records created and received to administer this Policy are subject to applicable federal or provincial information and protection of privacy provisions.   


11.2.   Subject to the exceptions in 11.3, employees who receive a Disclosure or Report or are involved in responding to, or investigating an incident of workplace Sexual Harassment must protect confidential information, maintain confidentiality and obtain Complainant consent before disclosing any confidential information to a third party.


11.3    The list below provides for exceptions to the rule in 6.2:


  1. Where an individual discloses risk of severe or life-threatening self-harm;
  2. Where minors are involved and in need of protection (BC Child, Family and Community Service Act);
  3. Where others, such as family members, colleagues or community members may be at risk severe or life-threatening harm; or
  4. Where a court has ordered the release of records to a court of law.


If a decision is made to release information without consent, only information relevant to the health or safety concern in question will be released, The Complainant must be kept informed of any release of information.


11.4.   <<BUSINESS NAME>>      will share confidential information in order to ensure that the Reporting processes listed in Section 8 are fairly conducted, in accordance with the following fairness principles:


  1. The Respondent has the right to review the details of the complaint, including information which identifies the Complainant. However, the identity of the Complainant may be withheld until such time as a risk assessment has taken place to protect the health and safety of the Complainant; and


  1. The Complainant has the right to know the outcome of the investigation, but not the details of any disciplinary actions that may have been taken against the Respondent unless sharing that information is necessary for the protection of the Complainant’s health or safety.


11.5    Unauthorized release of confidential information is a violation of this Policy. Unauthorized release of confidential information may also violate privacy and information protection laws and result in deterring Complainants from coming forward to Disclose incidents of workplace Sexual Harassment. Violations of confidentiality may also prevent the organization from conducting a fair and impartial investigation when a Report is made.



  1. Retaliation


12.1    For the purposes of this Policy, Retaliation further includes lateral violence and acts of incivility including any veiled or outright disrespectful behavior or commentary on social media and in client or colleague communities outside of the workplace.    


12.2    <<BUSINESS NAME>>      will not tolerate any Retaliation, directly or indirectly, or threats of Retaliation against anyone who Discloses, Reports or who participates in a process involving a workplace Sexual Harassment investigation or Informal Resolution.


12.3    <<BUSINESS NAME>>      employees, contractors and volunteers who are found to have engaged in retaliatory conduct will be subject to discipline, up to and including, termination of their employment, contract or volunteer agreement.

12.4    A complaint made in bad faith is an extremely serious matter. Misuse of this policy (for example, by filing complaints about conduct that the person knew or should have known would not constitute discrimination) or filing complaints that are made in bad faith, or are frivolous, vexatious or vindictive in nature, may lead to discipline or termination for cause.


  1. Safety Planning and Mitigating Risk


  • <<BUSINESS NAME>> will maintain procedural fairness and implement a trauma-informed, intersectional and culturally aware response.


  • Within the workplace it is essential to have more than one person to assess high risk situations. In complex situations, <<BUSINESS NAME>>  will seek support from outside risk assessment professionals to assess high risk situations of sexual violence and misconduct.


  • People within the workplace have rights, whether they have been targeted with inappropriate behaviour or are the ones doing the targeting. It is important to respect the rights of all parties involved in incidents. Failure to respect the rights of all involved persons in the wake of a disclosure or report may lead to liability.
  • <<BUSINESS NAME>>  will identify and implement safety measures that can be put in place within a workplace to mitigate risk on an interim basis, which includes monitoring that the respondent is in compliance with the interim measures.


  • <<BUSINESS NAME>>  will ensure that there is no bias against either party during an investigation.


  • At-risk of harm behaviour means direct or indirect behaviour that engages in unlawful, dangerous, or violent conduct, as defined by the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation per Work BC. At risk behaviour pertaining to bullying, harassment and or sexual violence and misconduct could include:
  • Disruptive behaviour including aggression or angry outbursts
  • Online posts that allude to violent behaviour or explicitly state harm to others
  • Threatening or hostile actions
  • Harmful comments towards others that could be deemed as bullying or harassment
  • Erratic mood swings
  • Death threats
  • Possession of weapons


  • Considerations for high-risk situations include considering the following;
  • Does the respondent know the survivor/complainants home address or location?
  • Does the respondent have a history of violence?
  • Does the respondent have a history of substance use?
  • Have threats to others connected to the survivor/complainant been made?
  • Is the behaviour escalating?
  • Does the respondent have access to weapons?
  • Are marginalization or cultural factors presenting?


  • If a minor is in need of protection there is a requirement to report to the Ministry of Child and Family Development. A minor is considered under the age of 19. The age of consent in Canada is 16.


  • If a minor is in need of protection, safety planning measures should be implemented prior to contacting the ministry where possible. It is encouraged in these cases that <<BUSINESS NAME>>  seek guidance from an anti-violence organization, especially in cases involving non-status immigrants and refugees. 


  • Persons conducting investigations and identifying risk should also consider their own safety including the possibility of retaliation. <<BUSINESS NAME>>  will provide safety planning and support resources to those taking complaints and conducting investigations as needed.


[1] It is a best practice to identify two people within an organization if the organization is big enough to warrant two senior leaders to be responsible for the implementation of this Policy so that Complainants have a choice of who to Report to in case one Responsible Authority is the Respondent. It is also possible that one Responsible Authority may be away when an incident arises. Naming two ensures that someone will be available to take immediate action. If your organization cannot designate two responsible persons, be very clear within your Policy about who is responsible at all times, to avoid confusion and delay. If necessary, invite the Board of Directors to be the Responsible Authority for workplace sexual harassment reports and investigations.

[2] This provision applies solely to provincial organizations who fall under the jurisdiction of WorkSafeBC. For other organizations who are federally regulated, look to the Canada Labour Code for guidance.