When you hear about a hazardous or unsafe work environment, what is the image that pops into your head?

Typically, it is a factory or construction site where a physical injury could take place – falling from a latter, electrocution or even slipping on a floor.

While physical injuries should be taken very seriously, a hazard that is often overlooked is harassment and discrimination in the workplace.

One of the latest and most publicized incidents has been with Air Canada. Flight attendants at the company have reported multiple incidents of inappropriate conduct at the company.

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Now their union has filed formal complaints with the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

The employees said they were lined up and marked on their appearance and ‘subject to highly sexualized harassing comments and conduct.’ Their union alleges that some of the critiques included telling some of them that they looked ‘too white’ or their ‘eyes were too small.’

Can you imagine coming into this type of work environment every day – being judged on your appearance and dealing with sexual harassment from your boss?

Unfortunately, it is a reality for many Canadians. According to a recent survey, this type of workplace hazard is an ‘epidemic that has been allowed to persist.’

The report by the Human Resources Professionals Association found that 94 per cent of executives don’t think harassment is a problem. However, one-third of female respondents and 12 per cent of men said they had been sexually harassed at work.

One of the most troubling numbers to come out of the research was that 80 per cent of victims do not report the problem.

The federal government recently passed Bill C-65 in hopes of tackling harassment and violence in federal workplaces. It is supposed to ‘to give workers and their employers a clear course of action to better deal with allegations of bullying, harassment and sexual harassment.’

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This finally addresses harassment as a workplace hazard and starts to set the bar for other workplaces.

Harassment can have both mental and physical effects on an employee, and it is the employer’s obligation to prevent it.

This isn’t always the case, however.

Having a union on your side can help. You have someone to report the harassment to and to stand up for you in the workplace, as was demonstrated in the Air Canada incidents.

When you are part of a union, you can reach out to a Shop Steward or Business Agent you feel comfortable sharing the issue with. If you are not yet a part of a union, you can always contact one confidentially to find out what your options are.

Unions are there to stand up for all of your rights as a worker and ensure that you are working in a safe and healthy work environment because all Canadians deserve a hazard-free workplace