Lawyers in Saskatchewan are hoping to educate residents about legal information when it comes to sexual harassment in the workplace.

Hilary Peterson, program coordinator with the Public Legal Education Association (PLEA), said they are offering free legal advice to people who have been subject to sexual harassment in the workplace through the Shift Project.

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“It’s funded by the Department of Justice. We, PLEA, host it,” Peterson said.

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She said it’s open to anyone working for a Saskatchewan company who has experienced what they believe to be sexual harassment, even if they’re not sure if the incident was indeed harassment.

“People who use our project don’t have to report in any way. They don’t have to discuss it with their employers, but what our lawyers do is give people options.”

Peterson said the lawyers helping in the project are trauma-informed and are mindful of what might be triggering for people.

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The Canada Labor Code defines sexual harassment as any contact, gesture, comment or conduct of a sexual nature that is likely to cause offense or humiliation to an employee; or that may be perceived by an employee under reasonable grounds as placing a condition of a sexual nature in employment.

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A study from Statistics Canada noted that in 2020 one in four women and one in six men reported experiencing inappropriate sexualized behavior in the workplace over the previous year. This includes verbal and non-verbal inappropriate communication, sexually explicit material, suggested sexual relations and unwanted physical contact.

“Approximately one-third of women (32 per cent) and one-quarter of men (26 per cent) said that they had not received any information from their employer on how to report sexual harassment and sexual assault,” read the report.

The study said bosses and supervisors were often the perpetrators of inappropriate sexual behavior, adding that 28 per cent of women who were sexually targeted with explicit material at work identified a person with authority as the one responsible. The same was found with 30 per cent of men who experienced unwanted physical contact or suggested sexual relations.

The report said many people didn’t want to speak out about their experiences due to fear of having a negative impact on their careers.

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By zonxe