By: Lauren Kemp – The Brock Press
Sexual harassment manifests in many forms and has had a long-standing presence in the workplace. Harassment is defined by the Ontario Human Rights Code as “a course of vexatious comments or conduct that is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome”.
Catherine Galliford has received plenty of media attention recently for her claims against the Royal Canadian Mountie Police (RCMP). According to Galliford, she was harassed for over 20 years by her superiors and felt there were no services in place that would help her stop the harassment. For that reason, she took sick leave in 2006 and finally in 2011, filed a civil suit against the RCMP. But now, the RCMP has attempted to discharge her because of her prolonged sick leave. Galliford has stated in interviews that she believes the RCMP is in a way, trying to silence her claims against them.
“I think they want to just get rid of the complainers,” said Galliford in an interview with CTV News Channel. “I think that’s what they are doing with me.”
Galliford has stated that she is unable to return to work due to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Her case has prompted the RCMP to update their policies around harassment. These updated policies should prevent harassment and also better protect employees who file complaints.
In practice, instances of sexual harassment exist on a continuum ranging from more obvious behaviours, like a superior asking for sexual favours, to seemingly innocuous commentary, such as constant observations or comments about a person’s appearance. However, one thing all these behaviours have in common is that they often target women and create hostile work environments that prevent many women from speaking out and ending sexual discrimination.
Every employer has a legal obligation to ensure that the workplace is a safe environment free of sexual discrimination and harassment. If this basic requirement is not being met by an employer, then employees have a right to contact the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario to launch an investigation.
Even women at post-secondary institutions like Brock University are not exempt from this kind of valuation. Although it is commonly cited that more women are enrolling in university than men, it is also the case that women are disproportionately organized into disciplines that will yield a smaller income after graduation (e.g. English or Education programs).
It is also true that professors in male-dominated subject areas like Accounting get paid more than professors who occupy the same position in disciplines like Women’s Studies. In the Ontario Ministry of Finance’s 2011 Public Sector Salary Disclosure, Brock professors in Accounting were paid between $127,385 and $221,944, while Brock Women’s Studies professors were paid between $101,962 and $121,832.
These trends combined with the high rate of sexual harassment and violence committed against women imply that not only are women paid less, they are worth less than men. Or more disturbingly, women are rendered objects without agency and without recourse for the dehumanizing practices they sometimes face in their workplaces.
Given that there were 24 cases of sexual harassment brought to Brock’s Office of Human Rights and Equity Services during the 2010-2011 school year, sexual harassment is also a problem on campus (more recent statistics were not available).
If you are in need of support and would like to file a formal claim against someone on campus, the Office of Human Rights and Equity Services is available for consultation. You can also anonymously text the Brock Student Sexual Violence Support Centre’s 24-hour texting line at 289-990-7233.