Vancouver, Coast Salish Territories

Sexual harassment in the workplace is an unfortunate reality for many British Colombians, yet studies have shown it still goes under-reported. In fact, a 2017 study of Canadian working women showed that more than half of them had experienced sexual harassment during their careers, but only about a quarter complained or reported the issue. As a country that seems to pride itself in striving to gender equality, this is a disheartening figure.

One barrier to reporting may be that many British Colombians are not sure what workplace sexual harassment is. The Supreme Court of Canada has defined sexual harassment as;

“unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature that detrimentally affects the work environment or leads to adverse job-related consequences for the victims of the harassment.”

It can happen in any type of workplace, and includes a range of behaviors that abuse power and may make the recipient feel unsafe in their place of work.

While recent social movements have created awareness of unacceptable behaviors, there is still a gap in service for workers to access advice, education, and proper information to address sexual harassment if it should happen to them. This is especially important for marginalized groups, such as Indigenous people, LGBTQ2S+, ethnic and cultural minorities, people with disabilities, and other vulnerable groups in society.

The new partnership between the Community Legal Assistance Society (CLAS) and the Ending Violence Association of BC (EVABC) aims to fill that gap, by creating SHARP Workplaces, funded by the Department of Justice Canada. This program offers a free legal service offering up to 5 hours of free confidential legal advice and is available to anyone in B.C. who has a complaint regarding workplace sexual harassment in BC. By providing legal advice, SHARP Workplaces wants to ensure that workers know their rights and have the appropriate support to take whatever avenue they feel is best. SHARP Workplaces will also provide free education and training to small businesses, non-profits and Indigenous organizations.

People who experience sexual harassment can access the SHARP Workplaces legal advice service by calling: 604-673-3143 or toll-free: 1-888-685-6222, emailing SHARPWorkplaces@clasbc.net or by going to clasbc.net. For referrals to support services after 5 p.m., please call VictimLinkBC: 1-800-563-0808. Education and training workshops can be requested from Ending Violence Association of BC by calling: 604-682-8820, or emailing education@endingviolence.org.