Harassment means treating someone in a way that harms their dignity or their psychological or physical health.
Harassment can take the form of insulting, derogatory, hostile or unwanted words or behaviour. Harassment is considered discriminatory if it is based on the personal characteristics of the person who is experiencing it (for example, age, origin, sex). There are 14 personal characteristics that are prohibited grounds for harassment.
Usually, repetition is what makes insulting comments and behaviour into harassment. But there are situations where a single serious action can constitute harassment. This is the case if the action has an ongoing harmful effect on the person who experienced it.
Discriminatory harassment is prohibited under the Québec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms
- You do not have to accept harassment.
- You cannot harass others.
No one can harass you - this includes employers, colleagues, teachers, classmates, neighbours and the police.
Examples of discriminatory harassment
- A landlord constantly makes nasty comments to a low-income tenant in order to get him to leave the unit
- A cashier is insulted by customers because of the colour of her skin
How to recognize harassement?
When behaviour (words or actions):
- is unwanted (causes discomfort or fear)
- is repeated
- is directed at someone because of their personal characteristics
- undermines someone’s dignity, or their physical or psychological integrity
This is discriminatory harassment and is prohibited by the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.
Discriminatory harassment could be directed at a person or a group of people.
Sexual harassment is a form of discriminatory harassment that is based on the person’s sex. For help recognizing and dealing with sexual harassment, visit our sexual harassment page.
Consequences of harassment
- Harassment violates people’s human rights, including their fundamental rights, such as their rights to dignity, privacy and integrity. These rights are guaranteed by the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.
- Harassment can have material consequences: missing work or class, having to quit one’s job or studies, failing classes.
- It can also have psychological and physical consequences: psychological trauma, stress, low self-esteem, etc.
The 14 prohibited grounds for discrimination or harassment
You are protected against discrimination and harassment that is based on these 14 personal characteristics. This is what ensures your right to equality.
It is a way of classifying humans according to physical or cultural criteria, without a scientific basis.
It's the color of your skin.
It is for example the fact of being a woman or a man. If you are discriminated against because you are a trans person, it is the reason "gender identity or expression".
- Gender identity or gender expression
It's the gender you identify with. For example, being a trans or non-binary person.
It's the fact of being pregnant and having a baby. This ground also includes everything related to pregnancy, such as health monitoring and maternity leave.
- Sexual orientation
It is the emotional or sexual attraction to someone. For example, being heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual.
- Civil status
It's your family status. It includes several situations, including being single, married, divorced or in a common-law relationship and whether or not you have children.
The law may provide for a minimum age for certain rights, without discrimination. For example, you must be at least 18 years old to vote or buy alcohol.
This may include your religion or beliefs, as well as not having a religion.
- Political convictions
These are the political ideas with which you firmly believe and with which you identify.
It may be your mother tongue or another language you speak at home, at work or elsewhere. It may also be your accent.
- Ethnic or national origin
These are your cultural characteristics or nationality.
- Social condition
These may include your occupation, income (e.g., being registered in a social assistance program), education or homelessness.
Disability includes a person's physical, mental or psychological limitations. It also includes ways to reduce its effects, such as using a wheelchair or using a guide dog.
There is no hierarchy between the prohibited grounds of discrimination and harassment. This means that none of them is more important than the others.
When is harassment prohibited?
Harassment is prohibited in all areas of life:
- At work:
- hiring and pre-hiring (job offers, application forms, interviews)
- conditions of employment (salary, wages, probation)
- professional development, promotions, transfers
- layoff, suspension, dismissal
- In housing:
- when renting a home
- while living there
- In public services, transportation and places:
- businesses, restaurants, hotels
- parks, campgrounds, RV parks
- schools, hospitals, places of worship
- In juridical acts(legal agreements):
- collective agreements
- insurance or pension contracts; employee benefits plans; retirement, pension and insurance plans; public pension or public insurance plans
- At work:
Did you know?
If harassment takes place in an employment situation, employers may be held liable for the actions of their employees and the other people in the workplace, like customers or suppliers. This means they must address the situation immediately.
What can you do in cases of harassment?
Do you think you have had repeated insulting behaviour directed at you because of your personal characteristics?
The Commission can help you recognize discriminatory harassment and take action to prevent or put an end to it.
Resources and tools
- Webinar: Understanding and Preventing Workplace Harassment (French only)
- Graphics: Dealing with Sexual Harassment: Your Role as an Employer
- Training: Le harcèlement sexuel ou discriminatoire, personne ne mérite cela ! (French only)
This video explains harassment in American Sign Language (ASL)