Definition glossary

The following terms are used throughout the legal education information provided on this site.

“Balance of probabilities” is a legal term that refers to a standard of proof, whereby an investigator determines an event is more likely to have occurred than not. This is distinct from a criminal standard requiring proof “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

BC Human Rights Tribunal is responsible for dealing with human rights complaints made under the BC Human Rights Code. The tribunal is where you can make a complaint that someone has discriminated against you under the Code.

BC Human Rights Commission’s job is to investigate systemic human rights issues in BC and provide education on human rights.

“Bullying” occurs when there is an imbalance of power; where someone purposely and repeatedly says or does hurtful things to someone else. It can be focused on an individual or a group.

“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.

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.

“Harassment” means engaging in conduct that is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome, without limitation. It can include verbal aggression, personal attacks or other intimidating or humiliating behaviour. It can also include targeted harassment based on someone’s gender identity/gender expression, race, ability/disability, Indigeneity, sexual orientation, religion/spirituality, age, class, language and/or socio-economic status.

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.

“Intimate partner violence” occurs within intimate and domestic relationships including partnerships, marriages, sexual relationships or dating relationships. It involves harm taking place within relationships and can take many forms. It can take place regardless of the persons gender or relationship status or co-habitation arrangement.

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.

“Remedies” are solutions that tribunals and other decision makers can offer after they make a decision on a legal issue.  Remedies are legally binding, for example, if your employer is ordered to pay compensation, they must pay it.  Remedies can also include ordering an employer to hire back a worker and/or to improve their policies.

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 assault” is any kind of unwanted sexual touching without consent. It can also include the threat of sexual assault and is a crime in Canada.

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. Learn more

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.

“Sexual violence and misconduct” is an umbrella term that refers to a spectrum of non-consensual sexual contact and/or behavior that may target a person’s sexuality or gender. It includes any sexual act attempted or committed that includes sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, stalking, indecent exposure, voyeurism, distribution of sexually explicit photographs or videos without consent.

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 an organization     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 an organization.

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 for the Complainant to make informed decisions. 

Workplace sexual harassment” is defined as unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature which includes behaviours that are insulting, humiliating, and offensive. This can be a one-time occurance or repeated behaviour over time. This is defined as workplace sexual harassment regardless of whether the person harassing meant to do so or not. Learn more

WorkSafeBC administers the Workers Compensation Act for the British Columbia Ministry of Labour. WorkSafeBC has the legal authority to set and enforce occupational health and safety standards, assist injured or disabled workers, and assess employers and collect funds to operate WorkSafeBC.

Workers Compensation Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation set out the legal requirements you must follow as an employer operating in British Columbia. If these requirements are not followed, WorkSafeBC may choose from a variety of enforcement tools including stop work orders and administrative penalties.