Witnessed sexual harassment at work? You’ve got an important role to play.
When you’re informed, you can play a powerful role in stopping and preventing sexual harassment at work. Whether it’s through protection and support of a person who is being harassed, actively discouraging the harasser or simply showing that workplace sexual harassment is not acceptable, we all have a vital role to play!
As an employee, being informed and aware of sexual harassment – what it is, how to identify it and how to respond – is your first line of defence. We are here to help.
There’s lots you can do to help. Here’s how…
Assess the situation
Is it safe to intervene? Is the person being sexually harassed in danger? Will intervening make the problem better or worse? Is there someone better suited to handle this situation?
Note: People who intervene may experience harassment or even hostility.
Step in, rather than aside. If it’s safe and necessary to do so, you can directly intervene in the harassment. Address the person doing the harassment. Be firm. Let them know their behaviour is inappropriate.
Run interference. If direct intervention is not an option, create a distraction to help diffuse the situation. Instead of approaching the harasser, engage with the person who is being harassed. Ask them a question. Strike up a completely unrelated conversation. Tell them their boss is looking for them.
If you don’t want to get involved personally, find an appropriate third party to intervene. This could be a manager, a supervisor, a human resource professional, another colleague, etc.
Talk to the person who’s been harassed. If you weren’t able to intervene, or chose not to, you can always support the person who experienced the harassment after the fact. Acknowledge what happened. Show empathy. Ask them if they are okay and whether they need additional support.
Record details of the incident in an electronic document or a journal. Send an email of the details to yourself. Remember to include the time, date and location. Provide names of all people involved, including witnesses. The more detail, the better.
Follow up with the person who was harassed. Tell them you have documented the incident, then ask what they would like you to do with the documentation. If it’s okay with them, report the incident to your company. If your company doesn’t have sufficient reporting mechanisms, suggest reporting it to an outside agency or call Occupational Health and Safety at 1-800-567-7233.