The Story Behind Saskatchewan’s Newest Coalition Against Workplace Sexual Harassment: Enough Already
Enough Already Saskatchewan is a multi-stakeholder coalition determined to address and prevent workplace sexual harassment in Saskatchewan. The coalition recently launched their website and plans to release a sexual harassment campaign in the coming weeks.
We connected with Nicole White, Project Lead behind Enough Already, to learn more about the coalition, how sexual harassment in the workplace has changed during the pandemic, what common misconceptions exist surrounding sexual harassment, and how Enough Already plans to initiate conversation and action to address and prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.
Tell me a little bit about Enough Already, the story behind it and your involvement in it.
In 2019, Enough Already received funding from the federal government for a five-year project. With this funding, five organizations from Saskatchewan formed a coalition to address sexual harassment in the workplace. Members of the coalition are Sexual Assault Services of Saskatchewan, as well as the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission, the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce, the Saskatoon Industry Education Council, and CREATE Justice out of the College of Law at the University of Saskatchewan.
We want to take an evidence-based approach to help initiate tough conversations about sexual harassment in the workplace. Between 2016-2018, OH&S were conducting one harassment investigation per working day, and you and I both know that those numbers are just a small fraction of the harassment that’s actually happening in Saskatchewan’s workplaces. So the idea is to get people talking about this issue.
There’s also a support component for people who have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. These are some of the pieces Enough Already Saskatchewan is trying to address with our work.
What kind of conversations have you been having given the pandemic and how it’s shifted the dynamic of the workplace with working from home and employee/employer relationships?
I think of a few different things. I think of people’s extra vulnerability. They may be staying in an unsafe work environment because work has become so precarious in this environment. Sometimes people will tolerate a sexual harassment situation even though it may not have been something they would have tolerated before. But because of the precariousness of the economy right now, people are extra vulnerable.
I also think that when we look at remote work we need employers to identify what their policies are around remote work and how they are protecting their workers. It’s really important for employers to think about what sexual harassment looks like especially in this environment. Sexual harassment is not just inappropriate touching in an office environment so we have to be innovative and proactive in how we explore creating safe working environments for people and sure those policies in place.
As an employer, it is important to fully articulate the expectations of behaviour of your staff and let them know what those policies are and how you’re protecting them in this new work environment. I think it’s really important for employers to be having this conversation.
What are some common misconceptions or beliefs about sexual harassment that Enough Already is hoping to shift or debunk?
There are a lot of different misconceptions about sexual harassment. For example: sexual harassment only happens between a man and woman, or sexual harassment has to involve touching, or sexual harassment is always motivated by a desire for sex. Some people think that if someone gives a compliment or tells a joke, that it doesn’t constitute sexual harassment. The list goes on.
I also think employers have to recognize that sexual harassment in the workplace also includes work sponsored events. So if it’s at conferences or events sponsored by a workplace, the employer is still responsible to investigate it properly.
We are consistently hearing about people who are brave enough to file a report, but then the workplace doesn’t handle it properly, or doesn’t investigate it properly, or brushes it off as if it is not serious enough. Every complaint needs to be taken seriously and investigated thoroughly.
I think the other piece is if you don’t think it is happening in your work environment maybe you aren’t actually having the right conversations. Make sure you are always checking in with all levels of employees, not just leadership because they may not know. If you are seeing a lot of turnover in an environment and you’re not sure why, be conscientious of your workspace because it is imperative for an employer to ensure a safe work environment for everybody.
What do you hope to see in terms of people taking that first step towards having these conversations and what should be a first priority for organizations and employers?
It’s really important for an employer to look at their policies. I think sometimes workplaces will have Safe Respectful Workplaces or Anti-Bullying policies. These policies are great but the issue with them is they don’t always explicitly include sexual harassment or it gets lost in umbrella language. It’s important to have very explicit policies pertaining specifically to sexual harassment.
The first stage of the Enough Already campaign focuses on the role of the bystander. We looked at the overarching role of the bystander and how everyone can all play a part in responding to sexual harassment in the workplace. People need to be empowered. The need to be informed on how to recognize sexual harassment in the workplace and how to properly respond when it occurs. The onus shouldn’t always be on the person who is experiencing sexual harassment to respond to it.
There are risks to speaking up, and we recognize those. It is important to ensure that you support that person in the moment. It is also important to take notes and create a solid record of what has occurred. If you feel like you may be in a place to speak up on a person’s behalf, or support that person by talking to HR, notes are extremely important. Even just keeping your own record of these events is valuable and can be used down the road if something else happens and you feel empowered to come forward.
What makes Enough Already different from what already exists in terms of sexual harassment training and education?
Our work is casting a wider net, and trying to create linkages and supports that may or may not have been there before. You don’t have to be a massive corporation to have these supports in place.
At Enough Already, we also provide employment coaching for people who have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. Whether you decide to stay in your workplace, if you want to leave that workplace, if you are in transition, if you have a complaint filed with the human rights commission, or if you’re out of a job at the moment, there is employment coaching available to you. There are some neat ways we are able to respond to this issue that don’t exist elsewhere.
Another key goal of the Enough Already campaign is to get people talking about sexual harassment and create new opportunities for learning. It doesn’t always have to be after a crisis happens that you begin doing this work. We are hoping that employers will take a look at this issue and think about how they can be proactive and how they can start having this conversation now.
Essentially, Enough Already wants to be a conduit for information and referrals so people have a one-stop shop for information and we can refer them from there. Our goal is to have one central hub for people wanting to become more educated on this issue whether you’re an employee, employer, a bystander, or someone who has experienced sexual harassment. We want to provide information and support for everyone.
What can we expect and what’s to come for Enough Already?
Because of our changing work environment, we are going launch a substantial online campaign in September that focuses on bystanders in particular. We’re going to have very active social media accounts. So please plug in wherever you can, wherever you feel comfortable, and spread the word. I encourage people to get engaged, get in touch, and let us know how we can work with you in whatever capacity.