In an ideal world, workplaces are environments of collaboration and shared success. However, not all workplaces are free from conflict, and some can even be labeled as ‘hostile.’ Hostile work environments can cause significant emotional distress, undermine productivity, and perpetuate inequality. Retaliation is another serious concern, especially when employees who speak out against inappropriate behavior are victimized. It’s crucial to understand how to identify and report a hostile work environment, and what protections are in place, especially in Alberta, Canada.

Hostile Work Environment and Retaliation: An Overview

A hostile work environment is defined by persistent and unwelcome conduct, often in the form of harassment or discrimination, which is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive. This may include racial slurs, belittling remarks, explicit or implicit threats, or other offensive actions that impact an employee’s ability to perform their job.

Retaliation, on the other hand, is any adverse action taken against an employee for engaging in legally protected activity, such as reporting harassment, discrimination, or participating in workplace investigations. Retaliatory actions can include demotion, reduction in pay, job or shift reassignment, negative performance evaluations, or any other action that would discourage a reasonable person from making or supporting a complaint.

Reporting a Hostile Work Environment in Alberta

In Alberta, there are several steps an employee can take to report a hostile work environment:

1. Document Incidents: It’s crucial to document each incident in as much detail as possible, including dates, times, locations, individuals involved, and any witnesses. This will provide a timeline and evidence of the hostile behavior.

2. Inform Your Supervisor or Manager: First, bring the issue to your immediate supervisor or manager, unless they are the source of the hostility. Be clear and specific about the incidents and their impact on you. It’s recommended to put your concerns in writing and keep a copy.

3. Lodge a Formal Complaint: If your supervisor doesn’t take appropriate action, or if they are the source of the problem, you can take your complaint to higher management, human resources, or the owner of the company.

4. External Reporting: If your complaint isn’t appropriately addressed within the organization, you can file a complaint with Alberta’s Occupational Health and Safety (OHS). You can report a complaint online, by phone, or by mail. Be prepared to provide your contact information, the name of your employer, the nature of the complaint, and any actions you’ve taken to resolve the issue.

Protections Against Retaliation

Under Alberta’s Occupational Health and Safety Act, it is illegal for employers to retaliate against workers who exercise their rights, including reporting safety hazards, workplace violence, harassment, or participating in workplace investigations. If you believe you’re being retaliated against, you can file a complaint with Alberta’s OHS or seek legal counsel.

Alberta’s Human Rights Act also prohibits retaliation against individuals who have reported discrimination or harassment or have refused to violate the Act. If you believe you have been retaliated against for asserting your rights under the Human Rights Act, you can contact the Alberta Human Rights Commission.


Identifying and reporting a hostile work environment in Alberta requires understanding the definitions of hostile work environments, knowing the steps for reporting, and being aware of the protections against retaliation. It’s a difficult and often intimidating process, but remember, every worker has the right to a safe and respectful work environment. Know your rights and don’t be afraid to stand up for them.