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Weinstein, #TimesUp, #MeToo, #WhyWeWearBlack: a Top-Down Approach to Promoting Respectful Workplace Culture

Weinstein, #TimesUp, #MeToo, #WhyWeWearBlack. Sexual harassment in the workplace is being talked about more than ever, and the Hollywood movement has shone a particular light on how power imbalance may lead to vulnerable workers being taken advantage of in the workplace.

A recent Ontario case is a prime example. Four female former employees of Soulpepper Theatre have filed sexual harassment suits claiming unwanted sexual touching, groping and harassment over a period spanning 13 years. The statements of claim name the alleged harasser, Albert Schultz, and the employer Soulpepper Theatre. The plaintiffs allege that because the company’s workplace harassment policy required employees to report complaints in writing to the executive director (Ms. Lester, Mr. Schultz's wife) they could not expect to do so “without the perception of bias and fear of reprisal”.

Cases such as this show that it is not only important for employers to have a written harassment policy, but to also ensure such policies have up-to-date best practices for reporting and investigating claims of sexual harassment. A common sense review of these policies should be undertaken to ensure that vulnerable workers have an appropriate reporting route without fear of reprisal.

Critical to the success of such policies is that boards of directors and management teams take the lead in denouncing sexual harassment and the abuse of power in the workplace. Failure to take workplace sexual harassment seriously at all levels of an organization increases the risk of human rights complaints and civil litigation claims against not only the alleged harasser, but also the employer.  

The Labour and Employment Group at Lawson Lundell LLP has experience in all aspects of workplace sexual harassment including policies, training, investigations, dispute resolution, and litigation.

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Lawson Lundell's Labour and Employment Blog provides updates on the most recent legal  developments impacting the Canadian workplace and offers practical tips for employers. We cover a range of topics, including labour relations, employment law, collective bargaining, human rights, employment standards, employment equity, workers' compensation, business immigration, privacy, occupational health and safety and pensions and employee benefits. 

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