A Saskatchewan non-profit is offering a new program aimed at helping workers who have experienced sexual harassment by offering legal advice at no cost.
The Shift Project was launched by the Public Legal Education Association of Saskatchewan (PLEA) and offers four hours of free legal advice for people to explore their options.
“Our project is two prong, we have the website which is free legal information and we also have a referral program which refers people to speak to a private bar lawyer,” said Hilary Peterson, legal program coordinator with PLEA.
Peterson said the website is designed to be a resource of support in that it explains what sexual harassment is and helps guide people who aren’t quite sure if what they experienced was sexual harassment.
“Something that I think people get confused about is maybe there are jokes made in the workplace or there wasn’t a specific action, so therefore it wasn’t workplace sexual harassment and that isn’t necessarily true,” Peterson said.
“It can inappropriate sexual jokes, it can be any type of intimidation, it can be comments about a person’s dress, intimate questions about a person’s personal life. If anyone is wondering and isn’t quite sure if the behaviour they’re experiencing is sexual harassment, they would also qualify for the referral program.”
One of the barriers Peterson said that people face, is that they do not know how to go about bringing the matter forward.
Fighting sexual harassment in the workplace
“(People are wondering) how they contact someone, what do they say, how do they make sure they are protected and a lot of people, you can imagine, are worried about losing their job,” Peterson said.
“It really is about the lawyer, helping prepare you and give you some good language and just ways to go about having your incident addressed.”
Peterson also added that the project is looking for more lawyers to get involved.
According to Enough Already, a coalition focused on preventing and eliminating sexual harassment in the workplace, 40 per cent of Saskatchewan residents have either experienced or know someone who has experienced sexual harassment in the work place.
“Our poll actually found a number of people don’t know what to do if it actually happens,” project lead Nicole White said.
White added the poll further found that 71 per cent of people had little to no awareness of resources or supports that are available when someone experiences workplace sexual harassment.
“We really want to get employers thinking about this issue, educating themselves, educating their employees on it and then providing further supports when it does occur,” White said.
Enough Already was launched in January 2020, providing resources for people via their website along with a project providing free employment coaching to people who’ve experienced sexual harassment in the workplace.
“I think we are one of the first projects in Canada to provide that piece,” White said.
“So I think between the important work that Shift is doing and we are doing, I really hope we can start to turn the tide on this issue in the province.”
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