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Women and Work in Canada

In: Social Issues

Submitted By lisa99
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Women and Work in Canada - Sociology 345
Assignment 3

Prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace is a concern in Ontario. It is agreed that sexual harassment is a form of gender discrimination and is recognized as a violation of human rights, however it still exists today. Sexual harassment violates women, lowers their self esteem, and leaves them feeling helpless, and in some cases trapped in a job that they cannot afford to quit, so they endure the harassment. Employers suffer because it creates a hostile work environment, productivity may decline, absenteeism increases and there is a high turnover of staff which can lead to the loss of valuable employees. Although there are laws and Acts that prohibit sexual harassment, it is not easy to stop. Most women attempt to deal with their situations informally instead of taking formal action because they fear reprisals, such as losing their job or being treated unfairly (Hughes & Anderson, 2010). In addition, the inherent inequalities and social conditioning that occurs between men and women plays a major role in the struggle women face within the workplace. Although the government of Ontario have put several initiatives in place to counter-act sexual harassment, it is not certain that any of these initiatives are making a positive impact on the situation. This paper will examine the different initiatives taken to negate sexual harassment against women in the workplace. According to "Women and Work in Canada: Sexual Harassment" the last extensive survey in Canada, was done by Statistics Canada in 1993, where 12,000 women were surveyed and it was found that one in four or 23% of Canadian women had been sexually harassed at some point during their working career, and one in five or 18% reported threats made concerning their job situation if they did not comply to a sexual relationship (Hughes & Anderson, Sexual Harassment, 2010). According to Project 97, a not-for-profit organization fighting against sexual harassment, another survey was conducted by Statistics Canada in 2009 where it was found that 472,000 women reported being sexually assaulted with only 1,680 ending in convictions. Of those numbers we do not know how many women laid formal charges and how many did not. The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) enacted the Ontario Human Rights Code that states sexual harassment is "engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct that is known or ought to be known to be unwelcome.” In some cases, one incident could be serious enough to be sexual harassment. The OHRC also created the "Policy on Preventing Sexual and Gender Based Harassment", and introduced "Sexual Harassment Awareness Week, June 1 to June 7. The Policy introduced in Ontario exerts a legal duty on Ontario employers to prevent and respond to sexual harassment. Employers must ensure they are operating in an environment that respect human rights, where sexual harassment cannot be ignored regardless of whether a formal complaint has been made or not. The "code" states three responsibilities of an employer, they are as follows: * Have a clear, comprehensive anti-sexual harassment policy in place. * Ensuring all employees have the policy and are aware of their rights, and their responsibilities not to engage in harassment. * Train everyone in positions of responsibility on the policy and their human rights obligations (Ontario Human Rights Code, 1990). In addition, there is the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO). The HRTO resolves claims of harassment brought under the Human Rights Code by offering the parties the opportunity to settle a dispute through mediation and/or a hearing (Ontario Human Rights Code, 1990).

In addition, The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) introduced five years ago Bill 168 that imposed obligations on employers to create workplace violence and harassment policies and programs, implement complaint procedures, investigate complaints and to undertake workplace violence risk assessments and warn employees of certain individuals with a violent history. Currently, section 25(2)(h) of OHSA states that employers are to take “every reasonable precaution in the circumstances for the protection of the worker.” Section 32.0.5 of OHSA states that “for greater certainty” this general prohibition applies with respect to “workplace violence”. There is no similar section in OHSA for “workplace harassment”. In other words, there is some doubt as to whether the general obligation to take “reasonable precaution” in the workplace applies to harassment as opposed to violence. As explained later, the Ontario governments action plan has proposed changes that would make it very clear that the general obligation to protect workers would apply to “sexual harassment”, and likely “workplace harassment” as well. The government is aiming to specifically confirm that sexual harassment is not only a human rights issue in the workplace but a workplace safety issue as well (Occupational Health & Safety Act, 1990). A further option is the Ontario Criminal Code. When workplace harassment turns into sexual assault or stalking, women may formally lay criminal charges against their assailant. Most women do not lay formal complaints. Some women feel it is their fault, other's are too embarrassed, some believe that they will not be believed, especially in the case of a student and a professor. In addition, women have to re-live the experience if the case goes to trial, which is very traumatic. In most cases, women are afraid of what might happen to their jobs if they make a formal complaint (Government of Canada, Ontario Criminal Code, 1985) . Determining whether the OHRC, the code and the legal system have decreased sexual assault against women in the workplace is one that is difficult to measure. As mentioned, with no recent extensive studies, there is no way of telling whether or not there has been improvement. However, based on the new campaign that was launched on March 6 of this year by the Ontario government "It's Never Okay: An Action Plan to Stop Sexual Violence and Harassment" it would suggest that the issue is still very much a concern (Government of Ontario, 2015) Premier of Ontario, Kathleen Wynne states that "it is difficult to believe that these actions and ideas are still pervasive today." and that "We can, and must, do better." The action plan will comprise a variety of initiatives that will raise public awareness and challenge societal norms and beliefs. It will include helping survivors and ensuring that those women who do come forward are not put through a cumbersome and slow legal system. The initiatives will include a public education awareness campaign across Ontario to change attitudes and behaviours, updating the current education curriculum to help students from grades one to twelve gain a deeper understanding of issues and healthy relationships. It will also include increased funding for community-based assault centres, the creation of free independent legal advice, and the enhancement of workplace laws that strengthen the enforcement under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. This will include establishing a Code of Practice to help employers develop stronger sexual harassment policies. Measuring the success of the Action Plan will mainly be done by conducting surveys and polls of Ontarian's experiences and opinions relating to sexual violence and harassment (Government of Ontario, 2015). In addition to government action, there are no not-for-profit organizations that are committed to specifically ending workplace violence and sexual harassment in Ontario. There are however, a few organizations that are trying to stop violence against women and harassment, but once again, nothing specific to workplace harassment. All of the organizations are focused more on sexual assault/rape. Indirectly these organizations are helping women, because they are trying to change the attitudes, behaviours and beliefs that are imbedded in our society about the role of women and the role of men. As mentioned above, Project 97 is a group of sexual assault centres who have come together for one year to help stop violence and harassment against women. Their mandate is to provide a mechanism for communication and education and to create a society in which social, economic and political equality is forefront. Various campaigns are launched, such as "International Women's Day" and "Breaking our Silence: Educating and protecting Women" (Project 97, 2015). METRAC: Action on Violence is an organization that offers training, consultation and learning events to build the capacity of individuals and organizations to promote equity and inclusion. They are also advisors to the OHRC, contributed to the United Nation's "Say NO - Unite to End Violence Against Women" Campaigns and they review both institutional and government policies and practices that promote safety and equity (METRAC, 2015) Womenspace is an organization that increases the effectiveness of women's organizing capabilities through national and global connections. They also support the exchange of experiences and ideas amongst women's groups. There is only one branch and it is in Simcoe, Ontario (Womenspace, 2015).

The most important findings have been that although women have made great strides in the areas of equality work, there is still a long way to go to gain complete equality between men and women. The inequalities that women experience can be contributed partly to patriarchy, where men dominate women (Hughes & Anderson, 2010). In society everyone is taught the beliefs of their society and we learn that certain behaviours and roles are expected from men and women . Women are to be emotional and caring, whereas men are to be strong and dominate. These characteristics suggest that women are "weak" and men are "strong." Harassment grows out of these beliefs that define women as subordinate (Hughes & Anderson, 2010) . Women work in a system of male control over women, a system of male privilege. In the workplace more men are senior managers than women, and as a result, more men have authority over women in the workplace (Hughes & Anderson, 2010) . Some men believe they can assert their authority over those beneath them, especially women. In many cases this is what leads to sexual harassment in the workplace. Women are marginalized, and are not offered enough protection or resources to combat these advances (Hughes & Anderson, 2010.) For some, the reprisal is just too great. Single mothers who cannot afford to lose their jobs or university students who are afraid to report a professor because it may affect their grades and their future are just two examples the inequalities that women face. The second finding was that other than government services, which are long and drawn out, or work place policies, which are not always enforced or acted upon, women really have no simple recourse when they are being sexually harassed within the workplace. Although legislation is critical, education and communication is also critical. There is not enough information, messages or face value being given to workplace harassment. Hopefully Ontario's Action Plan will get the message across through media outlets such as television and campaigns. I can remember a time when drunk driving was never discussed, and with the inception of Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD), emotional television ads, and increased fines and prosecution, drunk driving, although it still does happen, has basically become a social taboo in Canada. My suggestion to end sexual harassment in the workplace would be to follow the example just given. To make people aware, and make it clear that the behaviour is unacceptable and the consequences of that behaviour will be severe. The strategies to seek government intervention may help some women who are willing to subject themselves to a long gruelling process, but for those women who are not, these strategies are less than useful. The employer strategy, to create a harassment free workplace has its advantages and disadvantages. Creating a workplace culture where all employees are treated with respect and equally will foster strong working relationships. However, all managers have to support the culture. If certain managers decide to apply their own version of corporate ethics there will be a disconnect. For example, a manager who looks the other way when his/her employees are committing sexual harassment sets a precedent that can undermine the organizational culture. In addition, developing and maintaining a workplace sexual harassment policy can be costly and time-consuming. Policies need to be updated to reflect changes in workplace laws and changes within organizational culture. In some cases, the hiring of a Human Resources professional may be required. For some organizations, especially small businesses, the time and cost may be too much.

Works Cited
Athabasca University. (2010). Women and Work in Canada. Study Guide. Sexual Harassment. Athabasca University. Canada.
Government of Canada, Criminal Code (R.S.C., 1985, c. C-46). Justice Laws Website. Queens Printer, Ontario.
Government of Canada (2015). It's Never Okay: An action plan to stop sexual violence and harassment. Queens Printer, Ontario
Hughes, Karen, D., and Anderson, N. (2010). Women and Work in Canada. Sociology 345. Athabasca University, Canada.
METRAC (2015). METRAC: Action on violence. Toronto, Ontario
Occupational Health and Safety Act. (R.S.O. 1990), Chapter, c. 0.1. Queens Printer, Ontario.
Ontario Human Rights Code. (R.S.O. 1990), Chapter H.19. Queens Printer, Ontario.
Project 97 (2015). #Project97. Roger Media. Toronto, Ontario.
Womenspace (2015). Eugene, OR.

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