Workplace Harassment or Not?

Jeff is asked by his boss Adela what time he came into work that morning and what time he left the night before.  Is this harassment?

The Treasury Board of Canada’s harassment policy defines harassment as consisting of repeated and persistent behaviours towards an individual to torment, undermine, frustrate, or provoke a reaction from that person. Although harassment is normally a series of incidents it can be one severe incident which has a lasting impact on the individual.

To help you better understand workplace harassment, the following scenarios provide examples of what may or may not constitute harassment.

What generally does not constitute harassment Adela has spoken to Jeff about his working hours as he has been absent from his desk some mornings and afternoons. They have had two discussions confirming Jeff’s work hours and they both agreed that he needs be at his desk at his assigned start time. In this example the manager gave direction in a respectful and professional manner. Why? Adela has had a discussion with Jeff that was respectful and professional.

What may be regarded as harassment After their two discussions, each morning Adela makes a point to ask Jeff what time he came into work and at what time he left the night before. Why? This scenario may depend on how Adela is confirming Jeff’s work hours and if it can be considered justifiable. Following up on work absences is not generally considered harassment, but how the situation is handled can create the risk for the potential for harassment or perceptions of workplace harassment.

What is harassment Adela is frequently sarcastic in her tone when talking to Jeff and has openly questioned his ability to do his job in front of his colleagues.  The situation with Adela has become both embarrassing and stressful for Jeff. He dreads these daily encounters and worries about his job security. Why? Harassment can include making serious or repeated rude remarks, making comments that are inteneded to degrade a person’s reputation, or taking actions that repeatedly single out one person. Harassment may also include when a person abuses their position of authority to threaten another person’s job or undermine someone else’s performance.

What you can do You do not have to tolerate behaviour at work that is unreasonable and offends or harms you. There are steps you can take if you feel that you are being subjected to any form of harassment. However, it is also important to remember that the carrying out of managerial duties where the direction was carried out in a respectful and professional manner does not generally constitute harassment.

If you are unable to discuss this with the person responsible for the unwanted behaviour, report the situation to the person identified in your workplace policy, your supervisor, human resources manager, or a delegated manager. If you feel your concerns are being minimized and you are not satisfied with the response you receive, proceed to the next level of management.