What the Act says

The Act respecting labour standards contains provisions on psychological harassment at work that protect the majority of Québec workers, whether they are full or part time.

Although the Act does not apply to certain employees such as senior managerial personnel, a person who cares for others, an employee subject to the construction decree, a worker who is party to a contract (in certain situations) or a student trainee, the provisions concerning psychological harassment apply to them all the same.

What constitutes psychological harassment at work

Psychological harassment at work is vexatious behaviour 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.

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

The definition of psychological harassment found in the Act respecting labour standards includes sexual harassment at work and 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.


To establish that the case actually involves psychological harassment, it is necessary to prove the presence of all of the elements of the definition:

Vexatious behaviour

This behaviour is humiliating, offensive or abusive for the person on the receiving end. It injures the person’s self-esteem and causes him anguish. It exceeds what a reasonable person considers appropriate within the context of his work.

Repetitive in nature

Considered on its own, a verbal comment, a gesture or a behaviour may seem innocent. It is the accumulation or all of these behaviours which may become harassment.

Verbal comments, gestures or behaviours that are hostile or unwanted

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

Affect the person's dignity or integrity

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.

Harmful work environment

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.

Employer's obligations

Provide a workplace free from psychological harassment

The employer is required to provide his employees with an environment that is free from psychological harassment. However, this is an obligation of means and not of results. In other words, the employer cannot guarantee that there will never be any psychological harassment in his enterprise, but he  must:

  • Prevent any psychological harassment situation through reasonable measures, in particular by adopting and making available to their employees a psychological harassment prevention and complaint processing policy that includes a section on behaviour that manifests itself in the form of verbal comments, actions or gestures of a sexual nature, which is mandatory as of January 1st 2019.
  • act to put a stop to any psychological harassment as soon as he is informed of it, by applying the appropriate measures, including the necessary sanctions.

Manage with a view to preventing psychological harassment

The employer must adopt management practices that make it possible to prevent psychological harassment situations. He must put in place, in his enterprise, a known and effective in-house procedure that will allow him to be informed of these situations and to inform all of his employees. This procedure must also make it possible to deal objectively and promptly with these situations when they arise, in order to put a stop to them.

In his preventive management practices, the employer must also take into account that the harasser may be someone outside his enterprise: customer, user, supplier, visitor. To be able to fulfill his obligations well, he also has the right to ask his employees to refrain from harassing their colleagues, their superiors, or people with whom they have dealings as part of their employment.

Whom should you contact?

When a psychological harassment situation arises in a workplace, the Commission des normes, de l'équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail invites the employee to resort, wherever possible, to the resource persons designated by his employer and to the mechanisms put in place in his organization.

If the situation cannot be resolved within the enterprise, the employee may exercise the recourse provided under the Act respecting labour standards. However, the designated location for filing a psychological harassment complaint varies depending on whether the employee comes from the public or private sector, whether the employee is unionized or not unionized.


Employee StatusWhere to File the Complaint
Non-unionized employee who is subject to the Act respecting labour standards, including senior managers

Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail

Unionized employee

The employee’s union

Non-unionized employee of the public service, which includes members and officers of bodiesCommission de la fonction publiqueCe lien ouvre dans une nouvelle fenêtre

If the employee files a complaint with the Commission, the Commission may, with the employee’s consent, send the complaint to the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse.

Time period

The recourse in the case of psychological harassment at work must be exercised within a period of 2 years after the last incidence.

If, for example, the last incidence of psychological harassment occurred on December 11, 2017, the harassed person has until December 12, 2019 to file a complaint with the Commission des normes, de l'équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail.

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