I’m a Beauty Professional and I’m Experiencing Sexual Harassment at Work, Where Can I Get Help?

Sexual harassment within the Canadian beauty industry is much more common than you think. In Ontario, sexual harassment at work is prohibited under the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Occupational Health and Safety Act, both Acts protect workers from harassment and discrimination. Laws about workplace safety, harassment and discrimination will vary from province-to-province. It is important to know your rights in your province.

Workplace Sexual Harassment is any sexualized action(s) and/or behaviour(s) that are unwanted, unwelcome, and harmful in work environments. Actions or behaviours are often insulting, humiliating and are designed to offend and control the individual experiencing harassment. It can either occur in one serious incident or can include multiple incidents. But what does sexual harassment look like in the beauty industry? Take Jaime’s situation as an example:

Jaime is a new hairstylist at a salon and enjoys working with their co-workers; Jaime is transgender and is not out at work. The assistant manager schedules Jaime’s shifts whenever he is at the salon. They notice that he makes a lot of sexual jokes in their conversations, including demeaning comments about trans people. Jaime does not say anything to anyone about these incidents.

During breaks, the assistant manager corners Jaime in the break room to gossip about coworkers’ sex lives. The break room is becoming a nightmare for Jaime! Sometimes when Jaime is eating lunch alone, the assistant manager will sneak up on them and give shoulder rubs without asking. Jaime is uncomfortable but does not know how to tell him to stop inappropriately touching them and telling sexual jokes. They are worried about losing shifts at the salon, if they tell the manager to stop.”

Each incident is different and can include multiple types of workplace sexual harassment.

woman using hair dryer on man

What Are Examples of Sexual Harassment in the Beauty Workplace?

Examples of sexual harassment beauty professionals can experience include but are not limited to:

  • unwanted or inappropriate touching
  • sexual comments, jokes, and rumours
  • harassment because of one’s gender identity and/or sexual orientation
  • receiving sexual favours
  • distribution of unsolicited sexual images, text messages, and emails
  • entering in personal space without permission
  • leering or voyeurism
  • retaliation/consequences for not returning sexual advances
  • many other behaviours that should be known to be unwanted, unwelcome, and harmful

Sexual harassment can be perpetrated by ANYONE in the beauty sector. Harassers are not limited to one gender. They can be from different genders, sexual orientations, and ages. Workplace sexual harassment can include gender and sexual-based harassment that may occur in same-sex situations.

Workers in the beauty sector may experience harassment from:

  • Beauty establishment owners or managers
  • Co-workers
  • Supervisors at events
  • Volunteers or interns at work
  • Clients or customers
  • Sales representatives/Suppliers
  • Anyone who is engaging in sexualized behaviours/actions at the beauty workplace that ought to be known as harmful and unwelcome.

Imbalances of power between the perpetrator and the beauty worker can influence experiences sexual harassment for workers and impact their mental health and overall well-being.

Remember, workplace sexual harassment is NEVER your fault. Experiences of sexual harassment at work are unique for every beauty professional. The harassment that you experience may not be overt, and you may have a different experience from your co-workers. It is important for you as a beauty worker to get specific advice about your situation

Please seek advice that includes information about legal options, counselling, community supports, income support options, and healthcare etc.

Contact SHARE to learn more about your options in Ontario.

woman getting her nails done

How to Report Sexual Harassment in Beauty Work Environments?

Workplace sexual harassment can happen to ANYONE in the beauty industry. It’s important to recognize, accept your feelings and emotional responses as well as know how to file a complaint at work. All workers in Ontario have a right to file a sexual harassment complaint, but it may not always be clear how a beauty professional can safely file a report with their employer. Do your research and learn what options are available to you.

Keep in mind the following tips:

  • Recognize and acknowledge the behaviour/action is making you uncomfortable. If the behaviour is sexual, decide how you want to address it, and what you require to feel safe.
  • Research whether your company has a workplace sexual harassment policy – you can usually find the policy at your human resources department. The company policy should also include its own procedures on how to file a complaint. Other steps you can take while researching the workplace sexual harassment policy:
    • Discuss sexual harassment incident(s) with your supervisor/manager or with your human resources department (if applicable).
    • If you have any concerns about your harasser’s professional relationship to your manager or HR person and that is preventing you from reporting, please contact SHARE to talk about your options.
    • At any time, you may contact SHARE in Ontario to find out what options and resources are available to you.
  • Document all incidents of sexual harassment and follow-up on all verbal communications about a complaint via email.
    • Backup all communications, including screenshots of text messages, to a personal email, an external USB or hard drive for safekeeping.

It is your individual choice if you want to report. You may choose not to report at all and that’s okay.

For help and understanding your options available when dealing with workplace sexual harassment in Ontario, please contact SHARE (Sexual Harassment and Assault Resource Exchange).

SHARE is Here to Help.

The Sexual Harassment and Resource Exchange (SHARE) Team can be reached by calling the HRLSC and following the prompts. You will need to press 8 to reach the SHARE intake staff.

Tel: (416) 597-4900

Toll Free: 1-866-625-5179

TTY: (416) 597-4903

TTY Toll Free: 1-866 612-8627

Don’t work in Ontario? You can get legal support in other provinces. Visit the Public Legal Education Association of Canada website for information about legal services in other provinces: https://www.pleac-aceij.ca/our-work/preventing-sexual-harassment-in-the-workplace-project/

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