What is Harassment?

General Definition

Harassment is any behaviour that embarrasses, degrades, demeans, humiliates, threatens or intimidates a person, and that a reasonable person should have known would be unwelcome.

Types of Harassment

There are three types of harassment covered by Red River College’s Discrimination and Harassment Policy:

1) Discrimination Based Harassment

This is harassment based on one or more of the following “protected characteristics” listed in the Manitoba Human Rights Code:

  • Ancestry
  • Nationality or national origin
  • Ethnic background or origin
  • Religion or creed, or religious belief, religious association or religious activity
  • Age
  • Sex, including gender-determined characteristics, such as pregnancy
  • Gender-identity
  • Sexual orientation
  • Marital or family status
  • Source of income
  • Political belief, political association or political activity
  • Physical or mental disability
  • Social disadvantage
2) Sexual Harassment

There are three types of sexual harassment:

  1. a series of objectionable and unwelcome sexual solicitations or advances;
  2. a sexual solicitation or advance made by a person who is in a position to confer any benefit on, or deny any benefit to, the recipient of the solicitation or advance, if the person making the solicitation or advance knows or ought reasonably to know that it is unwelcome;
  3. a reprisal or threat of reprisal for rejecting a sexual advance or solicitation.
3) Personal Harassment

This is harassing behaviour that creates a risk to the health of an individual or adversely affects their psychological or physical well-being.

Series of Acts or Single Incident?

In most cases, more than one act or event is needed in order to constitute harassment. Taken individually, each act or event need not constitute harassment; it is the repetition that constitutes the harassment. In other words, harassment consists of repeated and persistent behaviours towards an individual to torment, undermine, frustrate or provoke a reaction from that person. Each behaviour viewed individually may seem inoffensive; it is the synergy and repetitive nature of the behaviours that produce harmful effects.

However, one single incident can constitute harassment when it is demonstrated that it is severe and has a significant and lasting impact on the target of the harassment.

(Note: In the case of sexual harassment particularly, a single incident may be viewed to be more significant in circumstances when the relationship between the complainant and the respondent is one where the respondent has influence or power over the complainant with regard to such things as marking and/or evaluation, career advancement, performance review, day-to-day management of activities and work assignments, etc.)

Key Elements

In order for there to be a finding of harassment under the College’s Discrimination and Harassment Policy, each of the following key elements must be present:

  • The behaviour must have occurred in the “Workplace or Learning Environment”.
    (Defined in the Discrimination and Harassment Policy as “any physical or electronic environment where Red River College conducts business or College-related activities take place.”)
  • The behaviour must have been improper and offensive.
  • The behaviour must have been directed at an individual.
  • The Complainant must have been offended or harmed. (e.g., feeling demeaned, belittled, humiliated, embarrassed, intimidated or threatened)
  • The Respondent must have known or reasonably ought to have known that such behaviour would cause offence or harm.
  • There must have been either a series of incidents or one severe incident that had a lasting harmful effect on the Complainant.

Examples of Harassing Behaviour

Harassment can take many forms, including:

  • Physical actions (e.g., inappropriate touching, pushing)
  • Verbal behaviour (e.g., using profanity, name-calling, threats, screaming)
  • Gestures and other non-verbal behaviour
  • Displays (e.g., posters, cartoons, graffiti)
  • Electronic harassment (e.g., harassing communications sent via technology such as internet or cell-phone)

The following are some examples of what could potentially amount to harassing behaviour:

  • Spreading malicious rumors and gossip
  • Excluding or isolating someone socially
  • Undermining or deliberately impeding/sabotaging a person’s work
  • Withholding information required to complete a work or study assignment
  • Intruding on a person’s privacy by pestering, spying, or stalking
  • Unfairly criticizing a person, and/or belittling a person’s opinions
  • Tampering with a person’s personal belongings in the work or learning environment
  • Making jokes which single individuals out for ridicule
  • Public criticism and/or humiliation
  • Unwanted sexual attention

What is NOT Harassment:

  • Appropriate use of authority by a Manager or Supervisor responsible for such functions as performance appraisals, discipline and directing work
  • Appropriate use of legitimate authority by academic staff in determining grades, identifying and preventing inappropriate classroom behaviour and recommending discipline
  • Interpersonal conflict/personality clashes unless the key elements of harassment are present