Part 2

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It’s not always easy to recognize harassment.

To determine whether the case constitutes harassment, the presence of five cumulative aspects must be proven.

However, some situations do not constitute harassment. Can you tell the difference between harassment, incivility and management rights?

In this second section of the training course, you will learn to:

  • Distinguish between what harassment is and isn’t

  • Recognize harassment in a work environment

This section takes about 15 minutes.

Let’s begin with some harassment myths.

In Quebec, rather than referring to workplace bullying, we usually refer to psychological harassment in the workplace, which is clearly legally defined under section 81.18 of the Act respecting labour standards.


Sources : Noble, M., Le harcèlement psychologique au travail 101 : quand le personnel enseignant ou l’administration devient les cibles ou les intimidateurs, Revue Santé et apprentissage, Ottawa, Éd. Fédération canadienne des enseignantes et enseignants, Printemps 2007.

Pelletier, M., Lippel, K. et Vézina, M., Harcèlement psychologique au travail, sd, site Web de l’Institut national de santé publique du Québec (INSPQ), visité en 2019, .

“If we can’t believe the myths,

then how can we recognize harassment?”

Let’s begin by describing it.

5 cumulative aspects

Harassment isn’t always obvious; it may take the form of insults, hurtful words or obvious gestures.


vexatious behavior

in the form of repeated conduct, verbal comments, actions or gestures

that are hostile or unwanted

that affect the employee’s dignity or psychological or physical integrity

that make the work environment harmful

Psychological harassment

The definition of psychological harassment found in the Act respecting labour standards includes sexual harassment at work and discriminatory harassment based on any one of the grounds listed in section 10 of the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms:  race, colour, sex, pregnancy, sexual orientation, civil status, age except as provided by law, religion, political convictions, language, ethnic or national origin, social condition, handicap or the use of a means to palliate this handicap.

A single serious incidence of such behaviour may constitute harassment if it has the same consequences and if it produces a lasting harmful effect on the worker.

Source : Loi sur les normes du travail, article 81.18

A single serious incidence of such behaviour may constitute harassment if it has the same consequences and if it produces a lasting harmful effect on the worker.

In Quebec, the definition of harassment in the Act respecting labour standards is the most commonly recognized and used. It uses the term “psychological harassment,” which also includes sexual harassment and discriminatory harassment.

Click on the blocks below to learn more.

Sexual harassment

Sexual harassment may take the form of various verbal, non-verbal or physical behaviours, which may be clearly unacceptable or more subtle.

Examples include:

Verbal sexual harassment

  • Offensive and degrading jokes
  • Remarks about physical appearance
  • Jokes that disparage sexual identity or sexual orientation
  • Use of inappropriate nicknames (“dear,” “honey”)
  • Insistent and repeated invitations
  • Unwanted calls, emails or text messages
  • Explicit sexual advances
  • Spreading sexual rumours

Non-verbal harassment

  • Being whistled at
  • Leering, especially directed at private parts
  • Display or sending of degrading, pornographic or exhibitionist images
  • Sexual gestures
  • Unwanted visits or gifts

Physical sexual harassment

  • Any unjustified and unwanted physical contact such as tickling, grabbing, touching, kissing, massaging, etc.

Discriminatory harassment

Discriminatory harassment occurs when vexatious conduct concerns any of the grounds protected by section 10 of the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms:

  • race
  • colour
  • sex
  • gender identity or expression
  • pregnancy
  • sexual orientation
  • gender expression
  • civil status
  • age except as provided by law
  • religion
  • political convictions
  • language
  • ethnic or national origin
  • social condition
  • a handicap or the use of any means to palliate a handicap.

You are now familiar with the definition of workplace harassment and the various types of harassment. Now, do you know what ISN’T harassment?

What isn’t workplace harassment?

Harassment in the cultural sector is a reality. However, it’s necessary to make the correct diagnosis before crying wolf. To avoid misunderstandings, it’s important to know how to identify each behaviour, since not all vexatious or unwanted behaviour is necessarily harassment.

Inappropriate behaviour

Inappropriate behaviour is an act or a comment that may seem trivial but is unacceptable. It can occur due to work-related stress, a tight deadline, difficult working conditions or professional constraints. Examples include:

  • Criticizing or judging the opinion of others

  • Slamming the door out of anger

  • Throwing an object, swearing or having a negative and contemptuous attitude.

When inappropriate behaviour is isolated, it doesn’t constitute harassment. However, it may become harassment if the behaviour recurs and/or is directed towards a particular person.


Incivility is deviant behaviour with ambiguous intent to harm the target, in violation of workplace norms for mutual respect. Examples include:

  • Inappropriate jokes and comments

  • Interrupting or cutting in on a conversation

  • Intentionally ignoring the person who is speaking to us or refusing to cooperate

  • Commenting on a person’s appearance or imitating them

Incivility is an occasional or isolated lack of respect. However, it can constitute harassment if it’s serious or may become harassment if the behaviour is repeated and/or targets a particular person.

Management rights

This refers to the employer’s right to manage anyone who works for them and make decisions related to the company’s profitability. For example:

  • Work organization and assignment of tasks

  • Management of performance, discipline and absenteeism

  • Performance evaluation

  • Application of sanctions, layoffs, dismissal and breach of contract

To the extent that an employer treats all workers equally, that their actions are respectful and they do not exercise management rights in an abusive, arbitrary, discriminatory or unreasonable manner, these actions do not constitute psychological harassment.


To recognize harassment, we need to monitor the following 5 cumulative aspects:

  • Vexatious behaviour

  • Repetitive in nature or a serious isolated act

  • Verbal comments, gestures or behaviours that are hostile or unwanted

  • Affect the person’s dignity or integrity

  • Harmful work environment

In Quebec, the term “psychological harassment” includes sexual harassment and discriminatory harassment.

It’s important to distinguish harassment from inappropriate behaviour, incivility and management rights.

Test your knowledge

How to prevent


Continue to part 3