Workplace harassment declines, but still pervasive

Queens study shows 31% of females harassed, 22% of males.

KINGSTON, Ont. — The percentage of Canadians who have witnessed or experienced harassment in the workplace has noticeably declined in the last two years, according to a Queen’s School of Business survey.

The Leger Marketing study reveals 23% of respondents have personally experienced workplace harassment, down from 28% in 2012. Similarly, the percentage of respondents who witnessed it has dropped to 25%, down from 33% in 2012. Four per cent report that they’re currently experiencing harassment in the workplace, or have in the last year, which is virtually unchanged from 2012.

More men (30%) say they have witnessed harassment than women (20%), but roughly one in three females (31%) has or is currently experiencing it versus 22% of males.

“It’s encouraging that incidents of workplace harassment appear to be declining. It suggests that recent legislation and increased education against workplace harassment in Canada is helping. However, the fact that roughly one out of four people still admit to experiencing it personally is hardly cause for a celebration,” says Jana Raver, associate professor at Queen’s School of Business.

Here are some additional highlights:

• University-educated employees are the most likely to report that they have experienced or are currently experiencing harassment (29%), compared to those who have a high school education or less (23%).

• The percentage of Canadians reporting a male harasser has declined from 50% in 2012 to 42%, while those reporting female harassers has remained the same at 23%.

• The percentage of Canadians who say they have witnessed workplace harassment inflicted by both males and females has jumped to 35% from 27%.

The Occupational Health and Safety Act in Ontario defines harassment as “engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct against a worker in a workplace that is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome.” This includes bullying, intimidating or offensive communications, isolation, hostile non-verbal displays, or sharing offensive pictures or materials.

The survey was completed online from April 21-24 with a sample of 1,501 Canadians. A probability sample of the same size would yield a margin of error of +/-2.5%, 19 times out of 20.

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