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Sexual Harrassment in the Workplace

Over the last few years, with the momentum of the #MeToo movement, there is a growing awareness that workplace sexual harassment is a widespread and harmful experience for many people. We know that sexual harassment disproportionately impacts women (and racialized women, in particular), 2SLGBTQ+ people, women with disabilities, low-income women, and women who are marginalized in other ways.

We also know that workplace sexual harassment is significantly underreported.

Sexual harassment in the workplace is a serious issue. It is also against the law. Human rights commissions and courts across Canada, including the Supreme Court of Canada, have declared sexual harassment to be illegal discrimination that can have legal consequences.

What is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment is understood as unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature. However, it is not always clearly defined in Canadian or provincial law.

For example, the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHS Act), OHS Regulations, and the Human Rights Act do not specifically define sexual harassment. There is also no clear definition of “sexual harassment” in criminal law, including the Criminal Code of Canada.

While the Human Rights Act doesn’t include a definition of sexual harassment, it does include a definition of “harass”, which can be helpful for better understanding sexual harassment. ‘Harass’ is defined as “to engage in a course of vexatious comment or conduct that is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome.”

In 1989, the Supreme Court of Canada decided in a case called Janzen v. Platy Enterprises Ltd. that sexual harassment is a form of discrimination based on sex, for the purposes of provincial human rights law (in this case, from Manitoba).

The Court also broadly defined sexual harassment in the workplace as “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature that detrimentally affects the work environment or leads to adverse job-related consequences for the victims of the harassment.”

Based on information from these legal perspectives as well as research and advocacy work, and perspectives from survivors, the Journey Project has developed a working definition of Sexual Harassment in the workplace.

The Journey Project recognizes sexual harassment in the workplace as comments, actions, or behaviours of a sexual, sexualized, or sexist nature that are degrading, humiliating, or offensive or that an employee objects to, and/or is likely to cause offense or humiliation to an employee.

Sexual harassment at work can also include comments, actions, or behaviours that may be understood as placing a request or condition of a sexual nature on their employment, promotion, or training.

Examples of sexual harassment can include (this list is not exhaustive):

  • unwelcome comments or intrusive comments about a person’s body, gender identity, sexuality, or sex life
  • sexual propositions/requesting sex in exchange for a favour
  • sexist jokes and language
  • demanding dates or sexual favours
  • the display of sexual images (such as pornography) where others can see it (may include calendars, posters, pictures, messages, or e-mails)
  • actual and/or threatened physical contact (note: this may be a criminal offence, whether sexual or not)
  • demeaning and sexually explicit bragging (‘locker room talk’)
  • sexually aggressive gestures
  • sending someone unwanted sexual images, text messages or e-mails
  • using sexist, transphobic, biphobic, or homophobic language, or any other behaviour that targets someone’s gender or sexuality
  • spreading rumours or gossiping about a person’s sexuality, gender identity, body, or sex life
  • requiring employees to dress in a sexualized way
  • stalking, following, and/or watching a person

Some forms of harassment may also be forms of sexual assault, or constitute other criminal offences. Harassment based on sex or related to sex (such as pregnancy) is also sexual harassment and is a protected ground under the NL Human Rights Act.

What is Not Sexual Harassment?

While numerous things can be considered sexual harassment, some things will not fall under the definition, such as:

  • The legitimate and proper exercise of management authority and/or responsibilities in the workplace
  • Legitimate and constructive feedback surrounding work performances
  • Disciplining staff in accordance with the employers right to manage
  • The employer/manager’s right to assign work tasks
  • Good-natured consensual flirting, teasing, and/or jesting that BOTH parties are comfortable with and find acceptable, and that does not make other people uncomfortable
  • Office relationships that BOTH parties are comfortable with and willingly consenting to:
  • being mindful of power imbalances. Even if both parties agree, there may be complicated issues to consider when it is a boss/supervisor and employee.
  • being mindful of company/internal policies which may prohibit inter-office relationships or require disclosure of such relationships.

Prohibition of Sexual Solicitation

In Newfoundland and Labrador, the Human Rights Act prevents people in positions who are able to confer, grant, or deny benefits or advancements to individuals from engaging in sexual solicitation or from making sexual advances to someone where they know or reasonably should know that it is unwelcome

Furthermore, people in positions to confer or deny benefits or advancements to others cannot penalize, punish, or threaten to retaliate against the person for rejecting their sexual advances.

In other words, a person who has power and authority in a workplace, including a boss, manager, or supervisor, cannot make unwanted sexual advances towards people in their workplace and cannot give or deny employment benefits (such as a raise, a promotion, or other benefit) based on sexual solicitation or sexual advances. As well, an employee cannot be punished or denied employment benefits for rejecting the sexual advances of another person in their workplace.

Third-Party Sexual Harassment

Third-party sexual harassment happens when the harassment is committed not by another employee, but by an outsider.

Typical perpetrators of this type of harassment include:

  • clients
  • customers
  • vendors who come on-site or otherwise interact with employees
  • independent contractors who work for the company
  • employees or contractors of a different company (for example, a security guard who is responsible for an office building where the company does business, maintenance and repair personnel who regularly come on company property, or caterers who work company events)

In fact, clients and customers were the most common reported perpetrators of sexual harassment in the workplace (along with managers) in a survey completed by Statistics Canada.

Examples of third-party sexual harassment might include:

  • A customer attempts to flirt constantly with a salesperson on your staff, making suggestive comments and asking inappropriate personal questions.
  • The vendor who stocks your coffee and snack machines repeatedly makes offensive sexual jokes in the company break room.
  • A customer at a café regularly views pornographic content on his laptop when served by a particular employee.
  • Unwanted flirtation, jokes, overtly sexual conversations, or other behaviour between two consenting parties that may make a third party uncomfortable, regardless of whether the third-party is the target of the joke/flirting/sexual behaviour. This sort of behaviour is often overlooked but can still constitute sexual harassment.

Your boss/supervisor should respond to this sort of harassment even if the harasser is not an employee of theirs. Responses may include, but are not limited to:

  • Confronting the harasser’s boss or supervisor about the behaviour.
  • Preventing the harasser from having contact with the employee.
  • Terminating your business relationship with the harasser.

25% of women and 17% of men reported experiencing harassment in the workplace in the prior year

47% of women and 47% of men witnessed inappropriate sexual behaviour in the workplace

Impacts of Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment can significantly impact lives and careers. Workplace sexual harassment can make people feel unsafe, can hinder mental health, and can harm work relationships. Sexual harassment can also result in people leaving their jobs, particularly if they do not feel safe or supported after bringing their concerns to their employer’s attention.

Sexual harassment can be a traumatic experience for a victim, their colleagues, and their community. Sexual harassment is a form of gendered violence, and it is an expression of power and control. If you have experienced sexual harassment, you may feel powerless, hurt, uncomfortable, vulnerable, unsafe, angry, or confused. Your feelings are valid. There is no ‘right’ way to feel if you have been harmed by sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment may also bring up past trauma. Those who have already survived another sexual trauma may be more strongly impacted by the experience of workplace sexual harassment. Remember that no matter what your past experiences have been, you deserve to have a workplace that feels safe and free from discrimination.

Vulnerable Workers

One study showed that workers who had precarious work or were self-employed were between three and five times more likely to be the victims of unwanted sexual advances at work. The study also showed that workers on a limited tenure were more at risk, no matter their position (people in this group are much less likely to report workplace sexual harassment for fear of losing their jobs).

Additionally, foreign or migrant workers, and workers in private households or other unregulated environments are more vulnerable to sexual harassment. Migrant domestic workers have ‘limited escape or recourse when facing sexual harassment as they are live-in workers and rely on the sponsorship of their employer to remain in the country. This also demonstrates the difficulty of dealing with sexual harassment for domestic workers, where there is no formal mechanism for their complaints’.

Employers’ Responsibilities

The law says that every employee, regardless of their place of employment, position, length of employment, seniority, or any other factor, has the right to a harassment-free workplace.

The NL Human Rights Act protects people from discrimination and harassment. The Act recognizes the inherent dignity and worth of all people, that we all have equal rights and opportunities, and should all live free from discrimination and harassment. Under the Act, an employer cannot refuse to employ (or to continue to employ) or otherwise discriminate against a person with regard to a protected ground.

You have the right not to be discriminated against or harassed based on your race, colour, nationality, ethnic origin, social origin, religious creed, religion, age, disability, disfigurement, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, marital status, family status, source of income, or political opinion.

Under the NL Occupational Health and Safety Act, all employers must ensure the health, safety, and welfare of their workers, and more specifically:

  • provide and maintain a workplace and the necessary equipment, systems, and tools that are safe

and without risk to the health of his or her workers;

  • provide the information, instruction, training and supervision and facilities that are necessary to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of his or her workers;
  • shall ensure that his or her workers, and particularly his or her supervisors, are made familiar with health or safety hazards that may be met by them in the workplace;
  • shall ensure that his or her workers are given operating instruction in the use of devices and equipment provided for their protection.

Recent changes to the OHS Regulations include:

  • An expansion of areas of misconduct covered, including:
  • Worker on worker violence – the definition of violence has been expanded to include ‘worker on worker violence’
  • Workplace harassment – definition added. ‘Inappropriate vexatious conduct or comment by a person to a worker that the person knew or ought to have known would cause the worker to be humiliated, offended, or intimidated.
  • Family violence – employers must take precautions to protect workers where they become aware (or ought reasonably to have been aware) of the risk of family violence in the workplace.
  • Risk assessments must now include ‘workplace characteristics including demographics, culture and the presence of new workers’ and ‘issues raised by the workplace health and safety committee, representative or designate’, along with the previously existing factors (which include previous experience in the workplace, occupational experience in similar workplaces, and the location and circumstances in which work may take place).
  • A shift from reactive responses to workplace violence and harassment towards more proactive harassment prevention, including:
    • Harassment prevention plan – the plan must set out procedures for reporting, investigation, and what should happen after an investigation. This plan must be made available to all workers.
    • Training – employers must offer training to staff on the plan itself, and on harassment prevention more broadly.
    • Annual review – the plan must be reviewed and updated as needed, but at least annually.
  • It is now clearly stated that investigations of complaints are required. These investigations may be completed by current staff or by an external third-party where necessary (for example, if the supervisor is the person accused of harassment).
  • Privacy protection is more explicit. Employers must protect employees’ privacy by keeping personal information obtained during an investigation confidential, and stating in the harassment prevention plan that personal information will not be disclosed except where necessary for the investigation and/or required by law.

Harassment Prevention Plan

Every employer is required to have a harassment prevention plan in place. The plan should outline:

  1. The commitment and obligations of the employer, supervisor and workers including:
  • That employers are committed to eliminating, where possible, or otherwise minimizing, the hazard of workplace harassment;
  • That supervisors are obligated to ensure the health and safety of workers, as well as to apply and comply with the harassment prevention plan;
  • That workers are obligated to take reasonable care to not engage in bullying or workplace harassment, report observations or experiences of bullying and workplace harassment, and comply with the harassment prevention plan.
  1. The process and procedures for dealing with a harassment complaint, including:
  • Reporting instances of complaints;
  • Investigating complaints;
  • Notifying those involved of the results of investigations and any actions taken.
  1. Confidentiality and workers’ rights under various laws.
  2. A statement of protection and support, protecting workers from retaliation and offering support when incidents of workplace harassment occur.

Employees’ Rights and Responsibilities

All employees have the right to a safe workplace free from harassment and discrimination. Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, your employer must ensure your health, safety, and welfare. Under the Human Rights Act, your employer cannot refuse to employ (or to continue to employ) or otherwise discriminate against you with regard to a protected ground. In NL, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression are all protected grounds, along with 14 others.

Under the OHS Act, you have the ‘right to refuse’; that is, you can refuse to do work which you have grounds to believe is dangerous to your health or safety or to the health or safety of somebody else.

Employees may be the first ones to notice sexual harassment in the workplace, long before management learns of any problems. Employees can act as a means of notifying appropriate authorities about sexual harassment in the workplace to help prevent further unwanted and unwelcomed behaviours if they have the consent of the person experiencing the harassment. It is important to ensure that the person experiencing the harassment is in control of what steps are taken.

Some things employees can do to help prevent sexual harassment include, but are not limited to:

  • Learning the workplace sexual harassment policies
  • Observing the workplace to see if sexual harassment is happening
  • Becoming aware of the various forms of sexual harassment
  • Discourage behaviours and actions that may offend someone
  • Asking whether behaviours and actions may offend someone, even if they may not offend themselves
  • Confronting sexual harassment behaviours immediately when observed when safe to do so
  • Notifying management or supervisors that someone may have been, or is maybe being sexually harassed
  • Writing an anonymous letter to a supervisor or manager about possible sexual harassment
  • Providing support to victims who have been sexually harassed. This can help further educate on what constitutes unwanted and unwelcomed behaviours and actions

Bystander Intervention

As part of a workplace’s Harassment Prevention Plan, the OHS Regulations require a statement that third parties (including other employees) MUST report incidents of bullying or workplace harassment that they observe. But reporting is just one piece. Everybody has a responsibility to call out sexual harassment in the workplace if they can do so safely. Project Soundcheck suggests some ways bystanders may intervene including:


You disrupt by distracting the person who is harassing or being concerning, allowing the other person to leave. This could be as simple as: “Hey, did you catch the game last night?”


This is when you check-in with someone after you saw something concerning. Maybe someone was trying to get out of a conversation with someone. You go and check on them after to see if they are okay.


This skill is all about gathering information. It asks you to slow down and use your observation skills. This will be helpful if/when the time comes to report or help the impacted person with the reporting process.


This is when you directly intervene. When you ask someone to stop saying or doing something. It is important to consider your own personal safety, especially during this step.


This is when you can use other people to support you. If you do not feel comfortable, can you ask a coworker, customer, or someone else (e.g., a security guard) for help?

People willing to intervene make it safer for victims to come forward and may make consequences more likely for harassers. Witnesses should also write down what they see and offer support if colleagues need help going forward to human resources or their boss. Be mindful that control should always in the victim’s hands – support should be offered in whatever decision they make.

While bystander intervention can be important, it is also important to be mindful of personal safety and the power dynamic that exists between employees and employers. It may not always be or feel safe to act against sexual harassment as an employee.

Reporting Sexual Harassment at Work

Here are some steps you can take if you have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace:

Speak to management about the issue

Speak to a Human Resources person (if your workplace has one) or your direct supervisor or manager. If this feels intimidating, you might try first speaking to a trusted co-worker. You might consider asking this co-worker to be with you as a support person when you bring your concerns to management.

Speak to your union representative (if applicable)

If you work in a unionized environment, you should contact your union representative. Your Collective Agreement likely includes provision regarding workplace harassment and discrimination.

Your union representative can give you guidance on what to do next. An informal resolution may be possible through a conversation between you, your employer, and your union representative. If not, your representative can guide you through the grievance process.

There is no one-size-fits all process for how a union will respond to complaints of this nature, so be sure to ask your union representative lots of questions so that you can fully understand what happens next. You may wish to ask about timeline (i.e., how long it might take to investigate and resolve your complaint). You may also wish to discuss expectations about privacy (i.e., best practices to ensure that your complaint is handled with discretion, so that not everyone in the workplace hears about what has occurred).

Find out if your employer has a current anti-harassment policy in place

Ask to see your employer’s policy on workplace sexual harassment. Employers should have a written policy regarding sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination. This policy will give you an idea of how your employer handles sexual harassment complaints and what the next steps will be in addressing the issue.

If your employer does not have a sexual harassment policy (and if you feel comfortable doing so), you can direct them to the free online training on sexual harassment for employers developed by us.

We have developed training for employers and employees on sexual harassment in the workplace. Employers can learn about best practices to prevent and address sexual harassment in the workplace, including guidance on the development of sexual harassment policies and procedures. Employees can learn information on their rights and responsibilities at work and steps to take if they experience or witness sexual harassment in the workplace.

Document your experience

If you have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, you should create a paper trail. For example, if you have received sexual messages or images from a co-worker, save these and put them somewhere for safekeeping. You can also make a note of the date of the harassment and other details such as who was present and where the harassment occurred.

It may seem counterintuitive to think about keeping documentation or images that are potentially upsetting and triggering. You may be inclined to delete a message or image of this nature. But it is important to hold onto this information. You may need to rely on it at a later date if there is an internal investigation or if you file a complaint with an external agency (such as a human rights complaint or police report).

If you request a meeting with a manager to address your concerns, you may wish to do so in writing. It is also useful to send a follow up email after meeting with a superior in order to make a note of what you’ve discussed. This creates helpful documentation of the fact that you have taken steps to address the problem with management. This documentation may come in handy if your employer does not then take appropriate steps to stop the sexual harassment.

Other Remedies

If talking to your manager or HR representative doesn’t work, you do have other options.

If you believe that you are being threatened, are in immediate danger, or are in need of protection, emergency services should be contacted by calling 911.

You may wish to seek alternative dispute resolution to address sexual harassment. This may be the most efficient and effective means to handle sexual harassment in the workplace. Alternative dispute resolution uses various means to come to a satisfactory conclusion. For example, approaching the employee who is sexually harassing you either personally or in writing and advising them that the behaviour is unwelcome and inappropriate may resolve the issue.

An employee may seek mediation between themselves and the perpetrator. This mediation can be held by various individuals and can avoid the lengthy processes involved in formal complaints or laying charges.

Appropriate solutions may include, but are not limited to:

  • seeking an apology
  • workplace policies requiring the perpetrator to attend seminars on appropriate workplace behaviour

Often, individuals do not wish to go through the formal processes of complaints, and alternative dispute resolution can be the most effective means of resolving their problems.

Employees may choose to also go through their supervisor or manager to discuss the situation and possible solutions. If the issue is with the supervisor or manager, the employee should seek another supervisor or manager, ideally one above the perpetrator.

It is also possible that the workplace will have a human resources manager who will be best equipped to handle these situations. If there is a human resources manager, the employee may seek to consult them to come to a resolution of conflict. If the human resources manager is the perpetrator, the employee can seek to resolve the issue with another supervisor or manager above them, or the business owner.

It is possible that the highest manager, or business owner is the perpetrator. If this is the case the employee may notify a lower-level supervisor or manager or may seek to file complaints with the Human Rights Commission, or seek to lay criminal charges.

The Human Rights Commission may make findings as to whether or not an individual has been discriminated against. This may include discrimination on the basis of sex, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or other prohibited grounds.

Where you believe you have been discriminated against, you must contact the Human Rights Commission within 12 months of the alleged incident, or within 12 months of the most recent incident if the sexual harassment is on-going. You can speak to a Human Rights Investigator either via phone, e-mail, or in person at the Human Rights Commission office in St. John’s. There is no cost to the complainant to do so.

It is possible that the alleged incident may not be accepted as a complaint. This may be done for various reasons, and it does not mean that they do not believe you. It may simply be a situation where there is not enough evidence to make a successful complaint.

The Human Rights Commission may seek to offer mediation with a lawyer. This process is available for parties to come to a timely decision and help both parties understand the root of the problem, while coming to acceptable solutions. Parties do not have to agree to mediation, and parties can have legal representation at mediation meetings. If no agreement is made, the matter will return to the Human Rights Investigator to continue investigating the complaint.

Claims may be appealed after the decision to the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador Trial Division by either party. This must be done within 30 days of receiving the order from the Board of Inquiry.

Sometimes workplace sexual harassment may also involve criminal behaviour such as criminal harassment or sexual assault. These behaviours are offences under the Criminal Code of Canada.

Criminal harassment occurs when someone makes you fear for your or a family member’s safety by:

  • Repeatedly communicating with you or someone you know
  • Continuously waiting for you outside your home, work or other place
  • Engaging in threatening behaviour against you or someone in your family

Sexual assault is any sexual contact that happens without the consent of all parties. It can range from unwanted sexual touching to forced sexual intercourse. Sexual assault occurs when someone did not consent to the sexual activity.

If someone wishes to lay charges against someone for criminal harassment or sexual assault, they should contact their local police. The police will then conduct an investigation, and where reasonable grounds exist that a possible criminal offence may have taken place, police may arrest an accused person and charge them with a crime.

This does not mean they are guilty of the offence, but that they may be tried in court for a crime.

Seeking to lay criminal charges may be an appropriate response to unwanted and unwelcomed behaviours and may be the best course of action to resolve conflict, especially where alternative means to resolve the conflict have failed.

For more information on this process, see our publication titled ‘Sexual Assault Prosecution’.

Civil litigation is typically reserved for non-unionized employees. Unionized workers usually must follow the grievance procedures set out in their Collective Agreement.

Civil litigation, commonly referred to as suing someone, or filing a lawsuit, can sometimes be a legal option for survivors of sexual violence. If someone sues a person or business, they are called the plaintiff in civil proceedings. The person or business being sued is called the defendant. If the plaintiff believes they are entitled to damages based on something that has been said or done to them by the defendant, they can file documents with the appropriate court to sue them.

Sexual violence in civil law can fall under several branches of what legal professionals call tort law. Tort law refers to a set of laws that are designed to provide remedies for people who have been harmed. Unlike criminal law, tort law is not intended to punish people.

If you are thinking of starting a claim, sometimes called suing someone, it is important to note that a settlement can happen anytime. This includes before a lawsuit has even started, or before court proceedings begin. A settlement is an agreement between the parties involved (plaintiff(s) and defendant(s)). We suggest speaking with a lawyer if you are thinking about your legal options.

For more information on this process, see our publication titled ‘Civil Litigation’.

To determine which options might work for your situation, we recommend you speak with a lawyer. The Journey Project can connect you with a lawyer for free.


Below are some relevant terms lawyers use. If you do not understand something the lawyer is saying, ask them to explain it differently. You can also reach out to The Journey Project for help.

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An individual who witnesses an incident but is not part of it. An active bystander intervenes after witnessing harassment, discrimination, or other inappropriate conduct.
The term often used by police or the courts to refer to a person who has made a complaint about a criminal incident to police. The complaint may or may not lead to criminal charges against an accused person.
A voluntary agreement, given willingly, to a specific sexual act, at a specific time. The person giving consent fully understands what is happening, is old enough to consent, and is mentally capable of giving consent. The law requires that a person take reasonable steps to find out whether the other person is consenting. The age of consent to sexual activity in Canada is 16. In some situations, a person must be 18 years old to consent to sexual activity (if the other person has a relationship of trust or authority over them, if it involves exploitative activity, if they are dependent on the other person, etc.).
Federal law that defines the types of behaviours that constitute criminal offences. It establishes the kind and degree of punishment that may be imposed for an offence, as well as the procedures to be followed for prosecution.
Treating someone unfairly because of their personal characteristics.
Defined in the Family Violence Protection Act and includes the following behaviours:
  • Intentional physical assault causing the worker to fear for their safety
  • An intentional, reckless, or threatened act or omission that causes damage to the worker or to property or reasonable causes fear of same
  • Forcible confinement without lawful reason
  • Actual or threatened sexual violence
  • Stalking behaviour (following, contacting, observing, etc.) causing fear in the worker
  • Behaviour that causes psychological or emotional harm or a reasonable fear of that harm, including a pattern of behaviour that undermines the psychological or emotional well-being of a worker
  • Behaviour that controls, exploits, or limits the worker’s access to financial resources
  • The deprivation of food, clothing, medical attention, shelter, transportation, or other necessities of life.
Stalking, following, or doing certain other things that frighten or intimidate a person and make them fear for their safety. Sexual harassment can include any unwanted conduct, behaviour, action, or words of a sexual nature.
The effect or consequence of an action. The impact of behavior of a sexual nature is more important than the person’s intentions in determining sexual harassment.
The purpose or intention of an action, from the actor’s point of view. A person’s good intent is not relevant in determining whether behavior may be sexual harassment.
Intimate partner violence is a prevalent form of gender-based violence (GBV). It refers to multiple forms of harm caused by a current or former intimate partner or spouse. IPV can occur in real life (IRL) or online public and private spaces, and may include physical abuse, criminal harassment (i.e., stalking), sexual violence, emotional/psychological abuse, financial/economic abuse, spiritual/cultural abuse, reproductive coercion, coercive control, and technology-facilitated violence (i.e., cyberviolence).
A provincial law in Newfoundland and Labrador that prevents people from discrimination and harassment at work if the person, company, business, organization, or association someone is complaining about operates under provincial law.
A provincial law in Newfoundland and Labrador that imposes certain minimum conditions on all workplaces that ensures that workers are provided with an environment that neither impairs their health or risks their safety.
A person who commits an offense or crime.
Personal characteristics that a person is born with or acquires later in life. The NL Human Rights Act includes the following prohibited grounds for discrimination:
  • Race: a socially constructed way of grouping people based on stereotypical physical or social characteristics.
  • Colour: your skin colour.
  • Nationality: you were born outside Canada and/or you are a citizen of a foreign country.
  • Ethnic Origin: you share an origin or background, culture and tradition or language with a group of people.
  • Religious creed: your religious or spiritual beliefs.
  • Religion: your belief in a particular faith or your genuinely held religious beliefs. It can also mean that you do not have religious beliefs. Religion differs from religious creed in that religion refers to the particular system of faith or worship that a person adopts (e.g., Islam, Christianity, Judaism).
  • Age: stereotypes based on a person’s age of being too young or too old.
  • Disability: The Human Rights Act defines disability as:
    • a degree of physical disability
    • a condition of mental impairment or a developmental disability
    • a learning disability, or a dysfunction in one or more of the processes involved in understanding or using symbols or language, and
    • a mental disorder
  • Perceived Disability: you have or have had a disability; are believed to have or have had a disability; or have or are believed to have a predisposition to developing a disability.
  • Disfigurement: you have burns, scars or other disfiguring conditions that are visible, but that do not cause any functional limitations. It is not meant to cover piercing or tattooing, unless for religious or cultural reasons.
  • Sex: your classification as male, female or intersex based on biological attributes, such as external genitalia, reproductive organs, chromosomes and hormones. Generally, individuals are assigned a sex at birth by a medical professional, often on the basis of their external genitalia. The prohibited ground of sex also includes those that are pregnant or breast-feeding.
  • Sexual orientation: your physical, romantic and/or emotional attraction to another person.
  • Gender identity: your internal and individual experience of gender. It is their sense of being a woman, a man, both, neither, or anywhere along the gender spectrum.
  • Gender expression: how you publicly present or express your gender. This can include behaviour and outward appearance such as dress, hair, make-up, body language and voice. A person’s chosen name and pronoun are also common ways of expressing gender.
  • Marital status: your status of being single, engaged to be married, married, separated, divorced, widowed or in a common law relationship. The prohibited ground of marital status also protects you from discrimination because of the identity of the person you are in a relationship with.
  • Family status: The Act defines family status as the status of being in a parent and child relationship. A “child” includes a stepchild and an adopted child and “parent” includes a step-parent and an adoptive parent. The prohibited ground of family status protects you from discrimination if you have special child care or elder care responsibilities. Source of income: The Act defines source of income as being in receipt of income or employment support under the Income and Employment Support Act.
  • Political Opinion: your political belief or support of a political party. Also includes non-partisan or politically neutral beliefs.
  • Conviction for an offence: you were discriminated against because of the conviction for an offence that is unrelated to your employment. The prohibited ground of conviction for an offence only applies when you are looking for a job or at work.
  • Association with other individuals: because of your friendship, kinship or other relationship with an individual or a group of individuals identified by one of the prohibited grounds.
  • Retaliation: you were discriminated or harassed because you previously filed a human rights complaint.
Any sexual activity committed without the consent of the other party. This may include unwanted kissing, fondling or sexual touching, rape (forced intercourse), or using a weapon to force sexual activity.
Any conduct, comment, gesture, or contact of a sexual nature that is likely to cause offence or humiliation to any employee; or that might, on reasonable grounds, be perceived by that employee as placing a condition of a sexual nature on employment or on any opportunity for training or promotion.
Broad term that describes a continuum of sexualized aggression, abuse, and violence. It includes any form of violence, physical or psychological, carried out through sexual means or by targeting sexuality. Sexual Violence can be any behaviour or action wherein sex or sexuality is used to dominate, humiliate, or subdue another person.
Causing or tending to cause annoyance, frustration, or worry.
An individual who suffers physical or mental injury, or economic loss because of a crime. Primary victims are those who were the direct victim of a crime. Secondary victims may have been victimized by some association with the crime, but not as a direct target.
A person who saw a crime or was a victim of a crime.

Resources and Supports

The Journey Project

  • Resources, training and support for employers
  • Legal navigation, support, and legal advice for employees
  •; 1-833-722-2805

Public Legal Information Association of NL

End Sexual Violence NL

Workplace NL

NL Human Rights Commission

  • Investigations of human rights violations
  • Employers Guide to the Human Rights Act
  •; 1-800-563-5808

NL Federation of Labour

  • Injured worker advisor
  • Resources for workers
  •; 709-754-1660

Workers’ Action Network NL

  • Network through which low-wage, precarious workers collectively organize
  • Workers-Only Hotline: 709-771-0024
  •; 709-771-0024