In today’s post, we are happy to welcome a guest poster! Sexual Harassment Advice, Response, and Prevention for Workplaces (SHARP Workplaces) is a program that provides legal help to those dealing with sexual harassment in the workplace. Read on to learn more about the services they offer:
We all have a right to safe and secure workplaces, but in reality, many people across BC face harassment and discrimination at their jobs, which can include sexual harassment. A study reported that in 2019, 47% of workers in Canada disclosed having seen or experienced workplace sexual harassment or discrimination (Burczycka, 2020). It can be overwhelming for individuals to begin considering their legal options. We hope this series on workplace sexual harassment can offer resources for library workers to guide patrons seeking assistance for these issues.
What is workplace sexual harassment?
- Workplace sexual harassment is defined as behaviour of a sexual nature that is unwelcome and leads to negative job-related consequences. Importantly, sexual harassment does not require intent: meaning it does not matter if the harasser did not mean to harm you.
- Workplace sexual harassment can be based on someone’s sex, gender, gender identity or expression, or sexual orientation. Examples of workplace sexual harassment include: sexual touching, sexual staring, sending suggestive images, repeated unwanted invitations, stalking, and many other behaviours. The behaviour may be subtle and still constitute workplace sexual harassment.
What can a worker do if they suspect they are experiencing or have experienced workplace sexual harassment?
Sexual Harassment Advice, Response, and Prevention for Workplaces (SHARP Workplaces) was created to help people in BC facing these exact issues. The SHARP Workplaces program has two components:
- A legal advice clinic established by Community Legal Assistance Society (CLAS) to provide legal advice and information to those who have experienced sexual harassment.
- A public education component led by Ending Violence Association of BC (EVA BC) to provide education and training on workplace sexual harassment to employers and employees. EVA BC provides a wealth of public legal education and information (PLEI) materials to increase public awareness of sexual harassment in the workplace and build people’s practical skills to prevent and respond to it. SHARP Workplaces PLEI resources are available on the SHARP Workplaces website. Keep an eye out for an upcoming blog post on EVA BC SHARP Workplaces and their resources!
Accessing SHARP Workplaces Legal Clinic
SHARP Workplaces Legal Advice Clinic provides free legal advice to anyone who has experienced sexual harassment in the workplace in BC. There are no income or age requirements. Clients can receive up to five hours of legal advice from a lawyer. Lawyers cannot provide legal representation (meaning the lawyers cannot attend court or tribunals for their clients) but can provide guidance and limited unbundled legal services.
How does it work?
Anyone can contact SHARP Workplaces Legal Clinic by calling (604-673-3143, or toll free 1-888-685-6222). Or, clients can complete an intake form and email it to SHARPWorkplaces@clasbc.net. With a few days of applying, our intake coordinator contacts prospective clients to schedule an intake call. After the call, it will take around a week for us to match you with a lawyer and generate a retainer agreement, which clients must sign. After signing the agreement, clients usually have their first meeting with their lawyer within 2 weeks. The lawyer may be one of our staff lawyers, or a lawyer from our roster list of lawyers from all over the province.
Clients can come to the Clinic at various stages in their journey, so depending on the situation and if time allows, lawyers can assist by:
- Helping clients currently facing troubles in their workplace determine if they are indeed dealing with sexual harassment, and advising on how to raise their concerns in their workplace;
- Providing advice on client’s legal options, including advising on provincial or federal human rights, employment and labour law, workers compensation, and criminal law;
- Helping clients draft complaints, or correspondence to their employers; and
- Assisting to negotiate a settlement.
No matter what the lawyer advises, it is the goal of the Clinic to empower the client to make the best decision for themselves on what - if any - legal option they’d like to pursue.
Sexual harassment is often a traumatizing experience, so the Clinic’s lawyers and staff receive training in trauma-informed approaches. Because clients may be dealing with additional issues arising from workplace sexual harassment, we take a holistic approach to supporting them by providing clients with referrals to appropriate ancillary services, such as counselling, employment, and housing.
We’ve also put together a video that workers can access to further illustrate what SHARP Workplaces Legal Advice Clinic can do for prospective clients.
If you have experienced sexual harassment at work, contact SHARPworkplaces@clasbc.net or call 604-673-3143 (or toll-free 1-888-685-6222) for free legal advice. The Clinic also offers presentations on what workplace sexual harassment is, and what employees can do. Contact us to request a free presentation, and visit our website for more information.
Burczycka, M. (2020) Workers’ experiences of inappropriate sexualized behaviors, sexual assault and gender-based discrimination in Canadian provinces, 2020. Juristat. Statistics Canada Catalogue np. 85-002-X