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Psychological harassment

Psychological harassment in the workplace is a form of violence and an abuse of power.

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Charter of human rights and freedoms of Quebec

According to the Act Respecting Labour Standards, “psychological harassment is characterized by a vexatious behaviour that is manifested by a repeated, hostile or undesired conduct, verbal expressions, acts that are to the physical or psychological detriment of the employee, and that creates an adverse work environment for the individual.

One isolated but serious incident may also constitue psychological harassment if it undermines the individual’s physical or psychological integrity, and produces a continuous and harmful effect for the employee.

For greater certainty, psychological harassment includes such behaviour in the form of verbal comments, actions or gestures of a sexual nature.”

Act Respecting Labour Standards, CQLR, c. N-1. 1, art. 81.18

The criteria of psychological harassment

Conduct, words, acts or gestures which are humiliating, offensive, degrading or abusive. They hurt the person, it affects their self-worth or their self-esteem. This behaviour goes beyond what a reasonable person might expect to experience as part of work. 

Considered separately, the vexatious events may appear to be trivial. However, the repetition of these events could become harassment.

The words, gestures or behaviours complained of, must be considered as hostile or unwanted. If they are sexual in nature, they could be considered harassment even if the victim did not clearly express her or his refusal.

Psychological harassment has a negative effect on the person. The victim may feel put down, belittled, denigrated both at the personal and professional levels. The physical health of the harassed person may also suffer.

Psychological harassment makes the work environment harmful for the victim. The harassed person may, for example, be isolated from his colleagues due to the hostile verbal comments, gestures or behaviours towards him or concerning him.

​Notice : According to the Labour Law, the definition of psychological harassment includes sexual harassment in the workplace and harassment based on any of the grounds set out in the Charter of human rights and freedoms: race, colour, sex, pregnancy, sexual orientation, civil status, age, religion, political convictions, language, ethnic or national origin, social condition, handicap or the use of any means to palliate a handicap.

Examples of psychological harassment behaviours

  • Offensive remarks
  • Acts of intimidation or retaliation
  • Rumours
  • Humiliation
  • Isolation
  • Teasing
  • Denigration
  • Threats
  • Insults, etc.
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What is not psychological harassment at work:

personality conflicts, managerial rights, difficult working conditions, work related stress, etc. 

Strategies to adopt when you think you are being discriminatory harassed at work

Notice: This page is only informational; its content should not in any way be interpreted or considered as a full analysis of the law nor an opinion or a legal opinion of the author towards any specific case, or of one or several points of law mentioned above. Contact the appropriate authorities to get more information and to inquire about your eligibility and conditions that may apply.