What are my responsibilities as an employer?

Workplace Sexual Harassment:
Employers have responsibilities
  • Do not engage in unwanted sexual comments, behavior or touching.
  • Do not engage in threats, violence or stalking.
  • Take steps to prevent and minimize sexual harassment.
  • Develop a policy statement on workplace bullying and harassment (which includes sexual harassment).
  • Create procedures for workers to report bullying and harassment.
  • Create effective procedures for investigating bullying and harassment.
  • Tell workers about the policies and procedures and provide relevant training.
  • Review policies annually to ensure ongoing compliance.
  • Respect the privacy of workers who make complaints.
  • Respect the privacy of workers who are subject to complaints.
  • Provide appropriate support and referrals to workers who experience sexual harassment.
  • Comply with any investigations or orders made by the Workers’ Compensation Board (also known as WorkSafeBC), or other authorities. See WorkSafeBC’s resource toolkit for bullying and harassment in the workplace. 
  • Hold regular education sessions to raise awareness of workplace sexual harassment, and provide workers with best practices for preventing and responding to instances of sexual harassment in the workplace.
  • Regularly train new staff on workplace sexual harassment policies and procedures.
  • Ensure management and human resources apply a trauma-informed approach while dealing with sexual harassment.
  • Communicate regularly with parties to a complaint while adhering to privacy laws.
  • Where appropriate, bring in an external investigator to assist with handling complaints.

These are independent decision-making bodies that can assist people who have experienced discrimination, including workplace sexual harassment.

The BC Human Rights Tribunal covers many employers in BC, while the Canadian Human Rights Commission covers employers that are federally regulated, including some on-reserve and other Indigenous connected employers. See the Human Rights in British Columbia: Sex Discrimination and Sexual Harassment fact sheet here. See the Canadian Human Rights Commission’s template for developing a workplace anti-harassment policy here.

A Human Rights Tribunal can:

  • Receive complaints about workplace sexual harassment.
  • Offer mediation (an informal process for the parties to find a solution together with the help of a mediator).
  • Hold a hearing (a formal process with evidence and witnesses, where a decision-maker makes a final decision).
  • Make decisions on whether or not something is discrimination.
  • Give orders against employers, including compensation for lost wages, compensation for injury to dignity or pain and suffering, or policy changes.

WorkSafeBC is also known as the Workers’ Compensation Board. It is an independent statutory agency that deals with workplace injuries and workplace safety. It can:

  • Conduct investigations and make orders to employers if there is a health or safety problem in the workplace, including sexual harassment.
  • Make decisions about whether or not an injury or illness is work-related.
  • Give compensation for lost work time.
  • Give compensation for temporary or permanent injuries and illnesses.

Remedies are solutions that tribunals and other decision-makers can offer after they make a decision on a legal issue. They legally are binding. For example, if your employer is ordered to pay compensation, they must pay it. Remedies can include financial compensation as well as orders to reinstate (hire back) a worker, or for the employer to improve their policies. Different remedies are available from different tribunals and decision-makers.

For education and training resources to support your workplace, please contact us.