Workplace violence and harassment glossary

Abuse: To hurt or inflict damage on another person, either emotionally, physically or both.

Accident: An unplanned event that causes harm to people or damage to property.

Assault: Applying force intentionally to another person, directly or indirectly, without that person’s consent. Also when a person attempts or threatens to apply force.

Workplace bullying: Bullying is a form of harassment. Repeated, persistent aggressive behaviour between employees in or outside a workplace that escalates over time and leads to victimization of a person. It includes any inappropriate conduct or comments by a person toward a worker (that the person knew or reasonably ought to have known would cause that worker to be humiliated or intimidated). It excludes any reasonable action taken by an employer relating to the management of workers.

Discrimination based on a prohibited ground: is the unequal, unfair and differential treatment of individuals who are members of particular social groups that have been historically disadvantaged.  Discrimination may be based on race, nationality, ethnicity, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, religion, marital or family status, criminal conviction, or physical or psychiatric disability.  Discrimination may be overt differential treatment or It may also be systemic or institutionalized in policies, procedures and practices. If a behaviour or practice has a disproportionate, negative effect on a particular group, this is discrimination.    

Domestic violence: Any form of physical, sexual, emotional or psychological abuse, including financial control, stalking and harassment. It occurs between opposite or same-sex intimate partners, who may or may not be married, common law, or living together. It can also continue to happen after a relationship has ended.

Harassment: Act of engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct against a worker that is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome.

Harassment includes:

  1. verbal, physical or visual forms of harassment;
  2. behavior or expression that could offend any reasonable person;
  3. inappropriate conduct that may or may not be intentional;
  4. a series of conduct or comments that happens one time or over a period of time, if the incident is serious, egregious or constitutes a threat;
  5. incidents where the victim does not expressly object to the harassment;
  6. unwelcome comments or conduct which may or may not be directed at a specific person; and
  7. comments or conduct that ridicule or disparage a group that could cause humiliation, insult, apprehension or disruption that poisons the environment.

Harassment (psychological): Any vexatious behaviour in the form of repeated and hostile or unwanted conduct, verbal comments, actions or gestures that affects an employee’s dignity or psychological or physical integrity and that results in a harmful work environment for the employee.

Harassment (personal), also known as non-human rights harassment, is not limited to the “grounds” and is defined as  repeated conduct which is  hostile or unwanted, and  includes verbal comments, actions or gestures that affect a member’s’s dignity, psychological integrity or physical integrity, resulting in a harmful environment.

Harassment (human rights): Harassment based on human rights grounds or “prohibited grounds” listed in human rights legislation such as race, nationality, ethnicity, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, religion, marital or family status, criminal conviction, or physical or mental health related disability. Some provincial and territorial human rights legislations also include other grounds as “prohibited ground,” such as social status, source of income and political belief.

Harassment (sexual): Harassment of a sexual nature. It can include touching, comments, sexual jokes or unwanted sexual suggestions or advances.

Mobbing: A type of group behaviour by co-workers to exclude, punish or humiliate a targeted worker. It is best describes as group bullying.

Rudeness: Offensive or undignified behavior that is deemed to be socially unacceptable or inconsiderate. It does not constitute bullying unless it is aimed towards a target with the intent to victimize. 

Workplace violence: “Any action, conduct, threat or gesture of a person toward an employee in their workplace that can reasonably be expected to cause harm, injury or illness to that employee.” 


October 7, 2015