May 2013 - Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination based on sex. The Ontario Human Rights Code (the Code) prohibits all forms of discrimination based on sex, and includes provisions that focus on sexual harassment. The principles set out in this policy will, depending on the circumstances, apply to instances of sexual harassment in any of the social areas covered by the Code. However, to reflect the most important recent developments in the law and in social science research, this policy will focus on the areas of employment, housing and education.
The Code does not specifically define the ground of “sex,” but the OHRC considers it to be related to a person’s biological sex, male or female. Men and women receive equal protection under this ground. The ground of “sex” also includes a broader notion of “gender,” which can be described as the social characteristics attributed to each sex.
The Code protects men and women from harassment and discrimination, including assumptions about their abilities that result from stereotypes about how men and women ”should” behave, dress or interact. The right to equal treatment without discrimination because of sex also applies to pregnancy.
In the Ontario Human Rights Code (the Code), 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. Gender-based harassment is one type of sexual harassment.
As a student, you have the right to an education where you are not sexually harassed. This includes primary, secondary and post-secondary education, and school activities such as sports, arts and cultural activities, field trips and tutoring.
The Ontario Human Rights Code says everyone has the right to be free from sexual harassment by their landlord, someone working for their landlord, or someone who lives in the same building. Because landlords are in a position of authority, and have access to apartments and often hold personal information, tenants can feel very threatened when they are sexually harassed. This may be especially true for low-income, racialized, gay and lesbian people, people with disabilities and other people identified by the Code who are sometimes targeted for sexual harassment.
The Code says every person has the right to be free from unwelcome advances or solicitation in employment. “Employment” includes applying and interviewing for a job, volunteer work, internships, etc. It also includes activities or events that happen outside of normal business hours or off business premises, but are linked to the workplace and employment.