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New Study Reveals Skilled Labour a Hotbed for Sexual Harassment in Canada

New Study Reveals Skilled Labour a Hotbed for Sexual Harassment in Canada

Does your company have a toxic workplace culture?

A March 8, 2024, CBC report detailed the findings of a recent study conducted by the YWCA of Halifax. The study highlights rampant sexual harassment in trade unions in Nova Scotia (and throughout greater Canada). This report is unsettling as more Canadian organizations seek to keep their workforce safe (and also strive to be more diverse and inclusive in their cultural practices). In addition to necessitating compliance with the numerous Provincial and federal laws requiring harassment training, industry leaders must seek to change the culture of harassment or risk work shortages in a time when skilled labour is difficult to find.

Key Takeaways

  • Women are leaving positions in skilled trade due to rampant harassment.
  • When women report harassment, they report an angry response from male leadership.
  • YWCA study recommends additional training as a means of keeping the workforce safe.

Sexual Harassment Most Prominently Coming from Men in Positions of Power

According to the study, which surveyed 100 women working in skilled labor, many female respondents reported experiencing harassment. The study showed that men in leadership roles were the most commonly accused harassers. 82% of those who responded reported the harassment occurred “more than once,” and 84% of the harassment was reportedly from men on job sites (with 68% coming from leaders within the organization).

A specific allegation listed in the report was particularly troubling. One respondent stated

“Being treated like a piece of meat even by supervisors and people in the training room that train you to work there, and then trying to prove that you’re just as good as everyone else all the time. But you’ll still never be treated equally because you’re a female in those trades.”

Such reports are, unfortunately, standard in a variety of industries. Still, in skilled labour, where there are so few women working, to begin with, such allegations are particularly troubling because it is difficult for women to break into (and remain in) these important positions without being subjected to a toxic culture. When women report they love working in skilled trade but consider leaving due to the social dynamic, it is clear there is a significant problem that has to be fixed.

Women Fear Reprisal for Raising Concerns

While nothing can be done to stop harassment unless reported, only 26% of women who responded to the survey had filed a formal complaint. Even when they did so, a formal investigation was conducted only 50% of the time. Women who responded to the survey claimed that when they reported misconduct, men would get “really angry” and take action to make their lives even more miserable. Such retaliatory behavior is a common complaint from harassment victims, even though taking adverse employment action in response to a complaint is illegal.

Study Recommends Organizations, Trade Unions, and Associations Take Action 

The recommendations in the YWCA report include conducting “continuous training on diversity, equity and inclusion” (as well as psychological safety), increased harassment training and other programs and initiatives aimed at keeping the workplace safe and healthy for all employees. Therefore, at a minimum, your organization should be going beyond its compliance obligations to ensure a healthy workplace culture, regardless of whether you employ skilled laborers or not, as the responses to the YWCA survey are common to all places of employment throughout Canada.

Syntrio Can Partner with your Organization to Improve Workplace Culture

Syntrio is the industry leader in harassment, diversity, equity and inclusion, and other forms of workplace health and safety training. We welcome the opportunity to partner with your organization to see how our courses have helped organizations throughout Canada keep their workforce safe, happy, and productive. By assisting organizations with improving their messaging and culture, we have found a great deal of success in reducing the potential for incidents of harassment that can be detrimental to attracting and retaining the best pool of candidates. Contact a member of our staff today to see how we can work with you to ensure your workplace remains healthy and free from harassment.

Contact a member of our staff today to learn more about how Syntrio can partner with you on these important topics.

Since 2007, Jonathan has practiced labor and employment law on behalf of management. Jonathan focuses his practice on advising employers on the prevention of harassment and discrimination issues, with an emphasis on providing in-person harassment training programs to companies of all sizes. Jonathan is licensed in California, Illinois, and Wisconsin, and maintains a national advice practice.

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