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Quebec Employment Law

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Psychological harassment as a concept was created in law by the Québec government in an act respecting labour standards. It is a complex notion. For psychological harassment to be the basis of a claim in an employment situation the following elements together must be present:

  • A harmful work environment is created
  • The dignity or physical or psychological integrity of an employee is affected
  • The behavior is hostile or unwanted by the employee
  • Their behaviour is vexatious and repeated or vexatious and serious

A person is within his or her right to expect to be free of sexual harassment in the workplace and the employer is obliged to provide a workplace that sexual harassment.

Quebec Employment Law - Joan Benson Attorney

Discussion of the elements constituting psychological harassment:

What constitutes vexatious behaviour?

This is something that is measured objectively. In other words if you are an extremely sensitive person outside of the norm behaviour that you consider as psychological harassment may not constitute same. On the other hand if to a reasonable person the behaviour would be considered humiliating or abusive then it can be considered vexatious. An additional point is that the behaviour does not have to be meant to hurt or be abusive or humiliating. In other words the intention does not have to be there.

Why does it have to be repeated?

If something that is humiliating and on its own would not be a cause of concern but because it is repeated it becomes abusive then it can be considered psychological harassment.

In fact it does not have to be repeated if there is one very serious gesture that can be considered unwanted abusive conduct. A one-time comment does not necessarily constitute according to law psychological harassment. On the other hand if there is a very serious behaviour even if it is only once same can be considered psychological harassment.

 Unwanted conduct

A person does not have to complain for conduct to be deemed unwanted. Behaviour or statements or gestures can be clearly unwanted without them being declared so.

Frequently Asked Questions

What do they mean by the Dignity or the psychological or physical integrity of the employee?

This means that the person against whom the behaviour is exercised is suffering to some degree because of the behaviour.

Who is not covered by the law protecting against psychological harassment in the labour standards act?

  • Self-employed workers are not covered
  • Persons who are covered by federal laws.

 What does one do if one seriously considers that he or she is a victim of psychological harassment?

If one is a unionized employee he or she can file a grievance. Québec government employees have certain recourses that are particular to them. All other employers please and managers must file a claim within 90 days of the last incident of harassment.

It is suggested that you communicate with the CNESST.

Does it constitute psychological harassment if I am being sexually harassed?

Yes complaint for sexual psychological harassment could be filed as a consequence of sexual harassment.

If you have more questions about the law and the workplace, please contact us today to see how we can help.

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