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Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

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Consent Comes First (CCF) provides support to Ryerson faculty staff and students who have been subjected to sexual harassment at work either on and off-campus, including experiential learning programs, co-op placements, practicums, part-time jobs, and full-time jobs. You are not alone, we are here to listen and support you. Contact us at osvse@ryerson.ca.

What is sexual harassment?

Workplace sexual harassment is defined under Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act as someone engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct against a worker in a workplace (including placement, practicum or co-op) because of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, where the course of comment is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome, or making a sexual solicitation or 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.

Sexual harassment can include: 

  • Crossing boundaries
  •  Leering
  • Unwanted flirting
  • Sharing inappropriate images
  • Degrading jokes or comments
  • Invalidating one's identity
  • Spreading rumours about one's sexual past
  • Intrusive questions
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How can Consent Comes First support you if you have been subjected to sexual harassment in the workplace or you have received a disclosure?

Consent Comes First offers expertise, support and resources for Ryerson community members affected by sexual harassment. We can connect you to resources, support you through external and internal reporting and most importantly be an attentive expert ear to listen. 

  • Connect you to resources including legal support, information and counselling;
  • Work with managers and supervisors to understand the impacts of sexual violence in the workplace
  • Provide training for staff teams on addressing sexual harassment and violence in the workplace
  • Support employees in seeking time off, utilizing domestic violence, sexual violence and medical leave
  • Advocate with employees in requesting specific workplace accommodations
  • Safety-plan with employees

Human Rights Services:, opens in new window If you are a Ryerson employee and want to make a report about sexual harassment you can contact Human Rights Services directly. They provide information about the options available through their offices, such as consultation, conciliation and investigation. They also offer free and confidential complaint resolution services for human rights and sexual violence issues. The office can be reached generally at humanrights@ryerson.ca

***It’s important for you to know that Ryerson may be required to investigate an incident of discrimination, harassment and/or sexual violence even if the individual affected chooses not to come forward to file a complaint or participate in the investigation process.

Human Resources Partner: Ryerson employees can reach out to their Human Resources Partner to discuss what is happening and receive support. They work with the Ryerson community to create and deliver outstanding practical and strategic human resources solutions, programs and services.

Unions: If you are a unionized employee, you may wish to connect with your union steward.  

If you are a Ryerson student or Ryerson employee who wants to report workplace sexual harassment, there are different external reporting options that may be available to you. These options include:

  • Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario: You can file an application to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) against both the person who sexually harassed you as well as the employer/organization where the sexual harassment took place. There is a one-year limitation period (that starts from the last act of sexual harassment) to file an HRTO application. You can access free legal advice on the HRTO process by contacting the Human Rights Legal Support Centre., external link, opens in new window 
  • Grievance Claims: If your workplace has a union, you can file a grievance to your Union Representative. A grievance is a violation of an employee’s rights on the job under the collective agreement or the law. Most collective agreements contain time limitations to file and process the grievance. 
  • Occupational Health and Safety Act:, external link, opens in new window You can file a complaint under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) to the OHSA’s Health and Safety Contact Centre (a sector of the Ministry of Labour). OHSA sets out rules and responsibilities for workplaces, including protection for employees from sexual harassment in the workplace.
  • Civil Tort Claims: You can retain legal counsel to start a civil tort action (an action based on a wrongful act or omission resulting in loss or harm) against the person who sexually harassed you. There is no limitation period (meaning you can take this action at any time after the sexual harassment/sexual assault took place).
  • Civil Employment Claims: You can retain legal counsel to start a civil employment action against the employer/organization where the sexual harassment took place. There is no limitation period (meaning you can take this action at any time after the sexual harassment/sexual assault took place).
  • Criminal Law Process: If the sexual harassment also includes sexual assault, you can report it to the police. This may lead to criminal charges against the person who sexually harassed/sexually assaulted you. There is no limitation period (meaning you can report to the police at any time after the sexual harassment/sexual assault took place). 

Ontario Women’s Justice Network , external link, opens in new windowis METRAC’s legal information website. The OWJN tries to help survivors of violence and their supporters better understand legal rights in Ontario. They have information on filing a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario based on workplace sexual harassment you can find here, external link, opens in new window

Workers Action Centre, external link, opens in new window is a worker-based organization that supports your rights in the workplace. They are committed to improving the lives and working conditions of people in low-wage and unstable employment. You can contact them on their hotline Monday - Friday from 12pm - 5pm at (416) 531-0778 or 1-855-531-0778.

The Sexual Harassment and Assault Resource Exchange (SHARE) , external link, opens in new windowis a service that supports all workers who have been subjected to sexual harassment or assault at work. SHARE provides free, confidential legal information to workers about all of their available options. You can contact them on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday 9 am - 5 pm and Thursday 2 pm - 6 pm at (416) 597-4900 or 1-866-625-5179. You will need to press 5 to reach the SHARE intake staff. 

In 2016 changes were made to the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act to include “workplace sexual harassment”. These changes provide further protections and provisions for workers experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace. Under OSHA workplaces must abide by the following;

  • Procedures for employees to report an incident or complaint to another person if the manager is the alleged harasser.
  • Duty to conduct an investigation into incidents and complaints that is appropriate to the circumstances
  • Ryerson employees have a duty to report when they become aware of other employees being subjected to sexual harassment. 
  • Leaders should be reviewing  workplace harassment programs at least every 12 months
  • An employer must provide appropriate information and instruction to workers on the contents of the workplace harassment policy and program, as required by the OHSA

For more information, refer to this link: https://bill132.ca/, external link, opens in new window

When in doubt know you are not alone and you can connect with Consent Comes First osvse@ryerson.ca

  • Write Down: Document what happened. For example, this can look like sending yourself an email or creating a note on your phone that captures the time, date, place, details of what happened and potential witnesses to the harassment. 
  • Up Not Out: Inform upper management, your union steward or senior leadership.  If that doesn't feel safe or you want some support outside of the workplace you can call Human Rights Legal Support Center, external link, opens in new window or the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre, external link, opens in new window
  • Take Care: When we hear or witness experiences of sexual harassment, it's important to practice self-care. This can mean making sure you are taking breaks, getting proper rest, eating meals, checking in with loved ones. 

TIME'S UP PSA on Workplace Sexual Harassment.