Toronto’s hospitality and restaurant industry is holding an event to bring awareness to the rampant problem of sexual harassment in the sector. The event, presented by the Industry Sessions, includes talks and conversations with big name professionals such as Cory Vitiello, Christina Veira and Evelyn Chick. The goal of the gathering is to shed light on and to find practical solutions to the problem of sexual harassment in industry workplaces. Toronto employment lawyers will also be on hand to discuss legal options for victims.
This event highlighting the ongoing problem of sexual harassment comes in light of the widespread exposure and public discourse on the topic that resulted from the social media #MeToo campaign that began in October of 2017. Yet, despite the public revelations, awareness campaigns and the significant resources invested in the cause, sexual harassment is still highly prevalent in Canadian workplaces.
According to the Ontario Ministry of Labour, “workplace harassment includes, but is not limited to: offensive comments or jokes; bullying or aggressive behaviour; inappropriate staring; sexual harassment; isolating or making fun of a worker because of their gender identity” and should be reported.
Data from a Human Resources Professionals Association survey shows that 17 percent of those questioned witnessed an employee being sexually harassed or assaulted at work, while 19 percent of the respondents reported that sexual harassment has increased over the years.
Notably, the study illustrates that there is a discrepancy between the employees’ experiences and the managers’ perceptions with supervisors significantly underestimating the scope of the problem. While more than 33 percent of Canadian female employees and 12 percent of male employees claim to have been sexually assaulted while on the job, 94 percent of supervisors believe it is not an issue in their workplace.
Incidentally, the number of reported sexual harassment and assault incidents is much lower than those that actually occur. An estimated 80 percent of incidents go unreported as many victims feel powerless, uncomfortable or afraid to file a complaint.
To decrease and eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace, the study recommends the establishment of a zero tolerance policy at each workplace; dealing with sexual harassment separately from other types of harassment cases and conduct issues; outlining clearly what constitutes sexual assault and harassment; and detailing the process of submitting a complaint. Training for both employees and supervisors should also be included, according to the study.