Workplace harassment is defined as any verbal, written, or physical conduct towards a person where their continued employment is contingent on enduring the behaviour or the actions create an intimidating or hostile work environment. If this sounds all too familiar to you, it may be time for you to pursue a workplace harassment lawsuit or complaint against the company and the person considered the source of the behaviour.
While you may think you have everything you need for a ruling in your favour, there are many intricacies of a workplace harassment case and below are 3 factors that you will need in order to be successful.
1. Definition & criteria
Many people use the term harassment to describe mistreatment in the workplace, but you need to prove that what you endured at your place of employment was in fact such as defined under the law. The definition and criterion of harassment under Canadian law has multiple facets. The conduct must consist of comments, act, or threats. These can include actions in relation to prohibited grounds under the Canadian Human Rights Act such gender, disability, or religion. You must establish that the actions were without a doubt directed at you, that you found them offensive, and they were unwelcome and not reciprocated by you.
Based on the balance of probability, you must also prove that the defendant reasonably should have known that their behaviour would be harmful. Finally, it must be proven that actions consisted of a pattern or series of events over time as one instance does not constitute harassment in the eyes of the law. You must establish that all of these factors are present in order to be successful with your workplace harassment lawsuit or complaint. You will most likely need the help of an employment lawyer for their professional expertise.
2. Time limit
For your workplace harassment case to be successful, you must abide by prescribed time limits. A complaint must be filed within 12 months of the last event or it may not be heard by a court or Human Rights Tribunal. The court or tribunal may choose to hear your case even if you do not file your lawsuit or complaint within the 12 months but this is at their discretion.
The fact that you need to file within 12 months of the last complaint does not mean that only this instance is the only occasion that can be used to build your case. As mentioned previously, your lawsuit must be based on more than one occurrence. Allegations can go back further than 12 months and this is encouraged as the more incidents that you can document and describe, the stronger your case will be.
Like any court matter, evidence is required to substantiate your claims or else it comes down to your word against the defendant’s. The onus is on you to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant harassed you so your evidence needs to back this up. As soon as it becomes evident that you are being harassed and it is not stopping, start keeping a written log with details such as the date, time, location, name of the harasser, and action that offended you.
Also, document any actions you took to stop the harassment as well because this demonstrates that the actions were unwanted and you attempted to put an end to them. Keep any text messages, letters, or emails writer by the defendant that demonstrates the harassment that you are enduring as this type of evidence is very powerful. Attempt to connect with witnesses to you being harassed and determine if they would be willing to testify in front of a judge or panel at a tribunal.