Handling Harassment In The Food And Beverage Manufacturing Industry
Harassment can occur in any workplace, and the food and beverage manufacturing industry is no exception. But what to do when you experience harassment at work?
We provide tips and resources to help you identify what constitutes harassment and how to deal with it if you experience it.
You are protected and have the right to feel safe going to work. All employers within the food and beverage manufacturing industry are required to provide a safe and healthy work environment within their plants. This should be included in their employee handbook.
Yet, unfortunately, cases of harassment have occurred in the food and beverage manufacturing industry. For example, in 2019, an engineer working for the manufacturing company Canimex Group in Quebec was convicted of sexual assault and voyeurism.
But the law is in your favour.
The Canadian human rights act protects employees from harassment as it dictates, “All Canadians have the right to be treated fairly in workplaces free from discrimination, and our country has laws and programs to protect this right.”
The Occupational Health and Safety Act states that “every worker has a right to a healthy and safe workplace that protects them from injury, illness and wage loss. And a healthy and safe workplace must be respectful, free of violence and harassment.”
The Criminal Code of Canada addresses harassment and stalking as criminal acts in Canada. This offence may apply if a person fears for their and their family's safety.
Canada Labour Code (the Code) defines harassment and violence as “any action, conduct or comment, including of a sexual nature, that can reasonably be expected to cause offence, humiliation or other physical or psychological injury or illness to an employee.”
Employee handbooks also play a role in protecting against harassment. These handbooks should include a clear policy against harassment, outlining what constitutes harassment and the steps employees should take if they experience it.
Yet despite these laws and policies, many cases of harassment go unreported because food and beverage manufacturing technicians cannot recognise signs of harassment. If you are being humiliated, inappropriately touched or degraded in your work, you are probably experiencing harassment.
What is harassment?
Harassment is not limited to sexual harassment. It can take many forms, including verbal, physical, and psychological abuse. Examples of verbal harassment include offensive jokes, name-calling, or insults.
Physical or sexual harassment includes unwanted touching or assault.
Psychological harassment includes bullying, intimidation, and threats.
Every manufacturer in the food and beverage industry should include a workplace policy around harassment included in their employee handbook. This will stipulate the signs of harassment and the support measures available to employees.
Recognising signs of harassment in the workplace
In order to recognise harassment, it is essential to be aware of the signs. If you feel threatened, humiliated, or degraded by a co-worker, it is time to take action.
Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) stipulates exact examples of harassment. Some of the examples are listed below.
- Aggressive verbal threats or abuse or physical assault
- Defamation includes rumours or gossip about an individual or constant ridicule
- Vandalism, such as damaging, hiding or stealing someone’s personal belongings or work equipment
- Inappropriate language, such as swearing at someone
- Sexual harassment is “soliciting a sexual or romantic relationship from a subordinate or making social invitations with sexual overtones to a subordinate.” This includes sexual touching as well as any sexual invitations in return for any career advancement or sending inappropriate communication that is sexually explicit.
Steps to take if you experience harassment?
Remember you are not alone and that there are resources available to help you deal with harassment at work. With the right support and guidance, you can address the problem and create a safer, healthier work environment for yourself.
1. Don’t ignore it.
Report the incident to your plant line manager or supervisor.
2. Build a case.
Keep a record of the incident, including times and details.
3. Get support.
Seek support from colleagues, friends, or the workplace counsellor. If there are employee assistance programmes at the plant you work for, leverage them.
4. Know your rights.
Be sure to know the employee handbook. It will highlight your rights and the laws that protect you from harassment.
Harassment is not only illegal, but it is also morally unacceptable. Food and beverage technicians have the right to work in a safe and healthy environment, free from harassment and discrimination. It is up to your employer to create a culture of respect, inclusion, and safety at your plant.
When applying for a new position as a food and beverage processing technician in the food and beverage industry, it is important to look at the company culture and the employee handbook or policies that guide how the company behaves.
QTalent gives you an overview of the workplace culture of the employers on our easy-to-use platform, helping you choose a healthy workplace environment and ensuring your success.
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