Are you protected from workplace harassment?

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Sexual harassment isn’t something that just happens in Hollywood or political quarters — it happens in most workplaces across Canada.

Recent data suggests that more than 50 per cent of working women have experienced unwanted sexual pressure.

New rules put in place by the Ontario government require provincially-mandated companies to have had a policy in place since September of last year to try to prevent harassment.

However, very little protections exist for individuals who may be innocent of harassment but still stand accused.

According to Muneeza Sheikh, a senior partner with Levitt LLP, there is far more pressure on large-scale employers with a public persona to deal with the incident “quickly and efficiently” because every step they take will be scrutinized by the public.

“I think the larger (employers) are facing a lot of pressure to protect their brand, their public image and to issue a termination quickly,” she explained.

Sheikh said smaller or medium-sized employers, who do not have those public relations concerns, may be more inclined to investigate the claim fully before taking action to discipline the employee, which may not mean termination.

“I think they are more inclined to take a step back and say ‘look, these allegations have been made but we haven’t done much to investigate them. We want to talk to the complainant, we want to talk to the person who the complaint is about and we want to potentially talk to other witnesses as well and get the full story,’” she said.

Sheikh added that employers have a duty to not only have concrete anti-harassment policies in place, but to ensure that their staff are well-versed and formally trained in the procedures.