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8. Harassment/poisoned environment

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The Code prohibits harassment on the basis of age. Harassment means a course of vexatious comment or conduct that is known, or ought reasonably to be known, to be unwelcome. The phrase "ought to have known" introduces an objective element to the test.

In addition, the Code prohibits creation of a poisoned environment. A poisoned environment is a form of discrimination and can arise from even a single incident. It may be created by the comments or actions of any person, regardless of his or her status. The comments or conduct do not have to be directed at a particular individual.

Ongoing jokes and comments or derogatory statements made about older persons in a workplace or service setting may constitute harassment or create a "poisoned environment" for older persons by making them feel uncomfortable, threatened or unwelcome.

Example: A worker is referred to as the “old fart” and teased by his co-workers about his age and perceived health problems associated with aging. He walks away from any conversation in which this occurs and from time to time tells people that he doesn’t find these comments funny. When he mentions it to his manager he is told not to worry about it as “it is all in fun since everyone gets old eventually anyway”.

Even though comments and conduct on the basis of age may be perceived by some to be less offensive than if based on other Code grounds, there may be situations where it has the same negative effect on the recipient. It is important to remember that for harassment to occur, behaviour must be known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome, but that this determination will be made based on the perspective of “reasonable person” which includes the perspective of the person who is being harassed.

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