by Stacy Dunn
Since July 1, 2020, the law on PEI has required all workplaces on PEI to have a workplace harassment policy. The PEI Human Rights Commission’s SHIFT Project provides education and resources on workplace sexual harassment to employers and employees.
“Everyone deserves a safe workplace,” says Laura K. Bird, Project Manager. “Just like having First Aid courses, training in the prevention and response to workplace sexual harassment will create safer spaces for all.
“Employers need to know how an employee can report the harassment and how to investigate it as well. We work with employers on how they can apply the guidelines within their workplaces. The project promotes restorative practices when possible. We realize punitive practices are necessary if a serious crime was committed and police need to be brought in.”
Laura does virtual and in-person presentations to employers and employees. She shares information from various sources, such as the Human Rights Act, the Employment Standards Act, Workers Compensation Board of PEI, and Community Legal Information (CLI). The latter organization offers the RISE Program, which supports people who have experienced workplace sexual harassment. It recently published Addressing Workplace Sexual Harassment: A Guide for Employees.
SHIFT Project provides education to employers on the cause, impact, and prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace. It includes the Management Alert Program for service-based industries designed to deal quickly and efficiently with harassing customers and keep staff safe.
Training for employees includes the bystander effect, where people do not speak up because they assume everyone knows what is going on.
“Everyone has a responsibility to contribute to a safe workplace,” Laura says. “Like First Aid, we want people to have a plan of what to do if they hear inappropriate jokes or see someone physically blocking someone else’s movements. They should also consider prevention strategies and how to SHIFT the situation through interrupting harassment at the earliest opportunity.”
National statistics show that workplace sexual harassment happens to both men and women, and there is a greater risk for people in marginalized groups or vulnerable communities. SHIFT is now surveying the Island community to gauge the awareness and experiences of employers and employees when it comes to sexual harassment in the workplace.
“We want a clear picture of what is happening on PEI to see the gaps and target the resources that the province has for Islanders.”
“We talk with many groups, and our target audience includes high school students. We produced materials for the Career Exploration and Opportunities (CEO) classes in high schools. This fall, teachers have access to those materials, and I can do a presentation to their classes.”
SHIFT is currently working to translate its materials into various languages.
“The training and skills that people learn when responding to workplace sexual harassment can be applied to all kinds of harassment. Bystander intervention and investigation works in many situations.”
The SHIFT Project is an initiative of the PEI Human Rights Commission, with funding from the Department of Justice, Canada.