HR Glossary  /  Health and Safety  /  Workplace violence and harassment 

Workplace violence and harassment 

What is workplace violence and harassment?

Workplace violence is any statement or behaviour that occurs during the course of employment, or activities related to employment, that could reasonably be interpreted as a threat of physical harm, or an attempt or exercise of physical force that causes or could cause physical or psychological harm. Harassment means engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct, or a single serious incident, against a worker that is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome. When this comment or conduct is of a sexual nature, relates to sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression, it is known as sexual harassment. Sexual harassment can also include sexual solicitation or an advance where the person making the solicitation or advance is in a position to confer, grant, or deny a benefit or advancement to the worker and the person knows or ought reasonably to know that the solicitation or advance is unwelcome. 

When can workplace violence or harassment occur?

Workplace harassment or violence can occur: 

  • At the workplace; 
  • At work-related social functions; 
  • In the course of work assignments outside the workplace; 
  • During work-related travel; 
  • Over the telephone or video calls if the conversation is work-related; or 
  • Elsewhere if the person is there as a result of work-related responsibilities or a work-related relationship. 

What is HR’s role in addressing bullying or workplace violence and harassment?

If you’re an HR representative, there are lots of things you can do to address bullying, violence, and harassment. If you don’t already have one, implement a policy on workplace violence and harassment that maps out the reporting procedures. HRdownloads has a full library of policy templates that you can use for your organization, or you can opt to have a policy manual built for you. 

Make sure the employees in your organization know the reporting procedures so that they can report all incidents or workplace violence and harassment that they experience or witness. Be prepared to receive a report of violence or harassment (see How should I deal with harassment in the workplace?). We offer employee training on workplace violence and harassment to educate your employees and managers on how to address incidents. 

Finally, you also have an important role to play in preventing workplace violence and harassment. Engage with your organization’s health and safety representative or committee to ensure you’re aware of the risks for violence and harassment and you have taken steps to eliminate these risks; if your workplace doesn’t have a health and safety representative or committee, engage with the workers themselves. You should also consider your organization’s culture and ensure that it fosters respect for all individuals. This will help reduce instances of bullying and harassment. 

How should I deal with harassment in the workplace? 

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