An Unwelcome Burden: Sexual Harassment, Consent and Legal Complaints

Research output: Articlepeer-review


The legal definition of sexual harassment was set down thirty years ago in the Supreme Court of Canada decision of Janzen v. Platy Enterprises as “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature that detrimentally affects the work environment or leads to adverse job-related consequences for the victim of the harassment.” Remarkably little has changed in the interpretation and application of these elements since Janzen was decided. However, both legal and social norms concerning sexual misconduct and consent have substantially developed in that time. This article unpacks the problematic consequences flowing from the treatment of consent in sexual harassment complaints under human rights law and argues for a shift in the legal principles governing sexual harassment complaints. It draws support from criminal law and tort law, each of which has shifted towards an affirmative consent standard due to similar problems and concerns regarding reliance on gender-based myths and stereotypes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)419-452
JournalOsgoode Hall Law Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jul 15 2021

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