Ethics Helpline

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All unlawful workplace harassment is discriminatory in nature. But, unlike verbal or physical harassment, discriminatory harassment is defined by its intentions instead of how it’s carried out.

In this case, the bully is harassing the victim because, at least in part, they’re a member of a protected class.

The more common and recognizable forms of discriminatory harassment are described in more details below:

1. Racial Harassment

A victim may experience racial harassment because of their race, skin color, ancestry, origin country or citizenship.

Even perceived attributes of a certain ethnicity (curly hair, accents, customs, beliefs or clothing) may be the cause. Racial harassment often looks like:

  • Racial slurs
  • Racial insults
  • Racial jokes
  • Degrading comments
  • Disgust
  • Intolerance of differences
2. Gender Harassment

Gender-based harassment is discriminatory behavior towards a person based on their gender.

Negative gender stereotypes about how men and women should or do act are often the center of the harassment. Some examples are:

  • A male nurse faces harassment for having what is perceived as a woman’s job
  • A female banker hits the glass ceiling and taunted for not being “leader material”
  • A male colleague displays material (comics, posters) that’s degrading to women
3. Religious Harassment

Religious harassment is often interconnected with racial harassment, but narrows in specifically on the victim’s religious beliefs.

An individual with a religion that differs from the “norm” of the company may face workplace harassment or intolerance in a variety of ways:

  • Intolerance toward religious holidays
  • Intolerance toward religious traditions
  • Intolerance toward religious customs
  • Cruel religious jokes
  • Degrading stereotypical comments
  • Pressures to convert religions
4. Disability-Based Harassment

Disability-based harassment is a type of workplace harassment directed towards individuals who either:

  • Suffer from a disability themselves
  • Are acquainted with a disabled person or people
  • Use disability services (sick leave or workers’ comp)

A person with a disability may experience harassment in the form of harmful teasing, patronizing comments, refusals to reasonably accommodate or isolation.

5. Sexual Orientation-Based Harassment

Sexual orientation-based harassment is starting to gain traction and recognition as a legitimate type of workplace harassment. Victims face harassment because their sexual orientation is different from those around them.

People of any sexual orientation (heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, asexual, etc.) may experience this form of harassment depending on their line of work.

For example, a homosexual man may face harassment on a construction site whereas a heterosexual man may be teased for working in a salon.

6. Age-Based Harassment

Workers 40 years and older are specifically protected in an attempt to promote employment of older people and reduce age-based harassment.

A person facing age-based harassment might be:

  • Teased and insulted,
  • Left out of activities or meetings, or
  • Unfairly criticized…

…Simply because of their age and the stereotypes that come with it. Unfortunately, this harassment is sometimes an attempt to wrongfully push the individual into early retirement.



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About the POEC

To administer and enforce the Public Officers’ Ethics Act which comprises of the code of conduct and ethics for public officers and declarations of income, assets and liabilities for designated public officers.