Sexual Harassment Claims And Employer Responsibilities in BC

Posted:  Aug 14, 2023

In today's evolving socio-legal climate, addressing workplace ethics and employee welfare issues is very important. One of the most pressing concerns within this realm is the challenge of sexual harassment.


Fortunately, decisive strides have been taken by the province of British Columbia in safeguarding the rights and dignity of its workforce by establishing legal frameworks to address sexual harassment claims.


Hence, employers and employees must understand their rights, responsibilities, and legal obligations. This article delves into the multifaceted landscape of sexual harassment claims.


It sheds light on the existing legal regulations as it delineates the roles that employers shoulder in shaping a workplace that is productive and respectful of individual rights.


What is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment, as outlined by the British Columbia Human Rights Code (BCHRC), encompasses unwelcome behaviors based on an individual's sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.


These behaviors occur where the BCHRC is applicable, including workplaces, housing, service provision, contracts, and professional associations.


Harassment involves actions or comments that offend, insult, or humiliate, either as a pattern over time or as a serious incident.

Below are some instances of sexual harassment:

      Unwarranted physical contact

      Coercive demands for sexual acts

      Verbal offenses like sexist jokes

      Derogatory comments

      Propagation of sexual content online and offline

      Spreading sexual rumors or gossip

      Making unwelcomed sexual propositions

      Forcefully demanding dates or sexual favours

      Asking intrusive questions about someone’s body part or sexual identity

      Asking for sen in exchange for a benefit or favour


It is essential to recognize that anyone, regardless of gender, can be subjected to sexual harassment. However, while this holds true, women are at greater risk, particularly those in positions deemed lower in importance or pay.


Immigrant women, those in rural settings, or temporary employment may face elevated risks due to barriers to legal assistance and fear of repercussions.


Perpetrators of sexual harassment can be co-workers, supervisors, bosses, or even clients. Sometimes, it even extends beyond the confines of the workplace.


Recognizing Employer Responsibilities

While the act of sexual harassment primarily lies on the wrongdoer, employers also bear a significant burden in addressing these situations promptly and effectively. The employer's accountability arises when they either had knowledge or should have reasonably been aware of the harassment.


Failure to adequately address the matter could result in legal action by the harassed employee against the employer.


Moreover, the employer's responsibility extends to instances involving non-employees or situations outside the workplace. For instance, if a contractor engages in harassment on the premises or during work-related events, the employer remains liable.


Overall, employers play a pivotal role in fostering a safe work environment for their workforce's well-being.


Developing and Implementing Policies

Employers must institute a written anti-sexual harassment policy. This policy should be displayed prominently, especially in workplaces with six or more employees.

The policy must assure victims' efficacy and enable reporting to someone other than the supervisor or employer.

1.     Training and Education

A pivotal aspect of policy development is comprehensive training and education.

Employers are responsible for establishing robust anti-harassment policies and conducting ongoing training for their workforce.


This essential training equips employees with a clear understanding of sexual harassment, delineates reporting procedures, and outlines the ensuing protocol.


By fostering awareness and knowledge, employers pave the way for a safe, respectful, and inclusive work environment.


2.     Prompt and Thorough Investigations

In the event of a reported incident or complaint regarding workplace harassment, employers are legally bound to undertake an investigation that adheres to the situation's specifics.


This includes conducting an impartial inquiry that upholds the privacy of all parties while ensuring a timely resolution. By adhering to these standards, employers demonstrate their commitment to accountability and a harassment-free work environment.


3.     Taking Corrective Action

Upon conclusion of an investigation, employers bear the duty of enacting corrective measures in cases where complaints are found true and substantial.


This may include disciplinary actions against the offender or setting up workplace modifications to avoid future occurrences. When employers actively take corrective actions, they establish a solid foundation for a harassment-resistant work culture.


4.     Safeguarding Against Retaliation

A crucial aspect of policy implementation involves safeguarding individuals who report sexual harassment or partake in investigations. Employers have a vital role in ensuring that these employees are shielded from retaliation.


Such protective measures bolster workplace integrity and avert potential legal repercussions under the.

Key Steps in Handling a Sexual Harassment Claim

Upon learning of sexual harassment, employers must initiate a confidential and discreet investigation. However, they should remember that while striving for resolution, being fair towards the accused is necessary.

1.     Give due consideration to complaints

It is important to give due consideration to complaints. All allegations warrant respect and thoughtful handling.


As an employer, neglecting or belittling complaints may escalate matters and result in potential legal ramifications. Hence, employers must uphold each grievance's significance and foster a culture of responsiveness and accountability.


2.     Ensure confidentiality

Employers should preserve utmost discretion during the procedure. There is a need to ensure confidentiality with those directly involved in the complaint.


3.     Conduct an unbiased investigation

Initiate an impartial investigation by ensuring objectivity. In a situation where it is impossible to be impartial, consider involving an external investigator.


Employers must take this seriously because the investigation's credibility is paramount in establishing a fair resolution for all parties involved.


4.     Keep comprehensive documentation for transparency

It is important to keep a detailed and comprehensive account of investigation proceedings as it is crucial for potential legal scenarios.


You can capture every step taken in an investigation process with thorough documentation. This will help foster transparency and strengthen the credibility of the investigation process.


So there is the need for proper legal proceedings; the comprehensive records that have been kept will stand as a testament to the due diligence of the investigation.


5.     Provide support to the complainant

It is important to support the complainant with resources like counseling or workplace modifications to demonstrate commitment to their well-being.


6.     Take appropriate action

Once you’ve confirmed the validity of the complaint, carry out disciplinary measures and set up preventive measures to reduce the possibility of future occurrences.


By taking resolute and fitting actions as an employer, you’ll exemplify a commitment to cultivating a secure and respectful work environment.



In the dynamic landscape of the workplace, confronting and eradicating sexual harassment is a shared responsibility. Fortunately, BC’s robust legal framework sets the stage for employers to champion the rights and well-being of their workforce.


As we navigate the complexities of sexual harassment claims and employer responsibilities, it is important to take a proactive approach. For further information and professional assistance, please contact us at Stevens and Company Law Corporation.



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