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Ryley educates employers on preventing sexual harassment

Sexual harassment in the workplace can have a devastating impact on an organization’s brand and corporate reputation — as is apparent from the lawsuits, scandals and #MeToo revelations that have cast a negative shadow on a number of industries, says Toronto human rights and employment lawyer Bay Ryley.

Lawmakers across North America are making workplace training mandatory in a growing number of jurisdictions, including Ontario, New York, Maine and California, says Ryley, founder and president of Ryley Learning.

“This type of training has always been a best practice for eliminating corporate liability and making sexual harassment less likely to occur, but Ontario is the first province in Canada to make it mandatory,” Ryley tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The new law spurred the launch of Ryley Learning, an online training tool that offers digital workplace education solutions to employers, including an animated video series on the issue of sexual harassment.

The launch coincided with the passage of Bill 132, which amended Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act to mandate that employers have a workplace sexual harassment policy and training for all workers, Ryley says.

“I spoke about Bill 132 at a number of industry conferences and found that employers were looking for better ways to conduct mandatory training — especially for large, mobile workplaces,” she explains. “I realized I was well positoned to fill this gap and provide a solution.”

Ryley, who spent years litigating sexual harassment cases and designing company diversity and inclusion policies, created “Everyone’s Business” as a solution for employers and organizations that need a way to execute the mandatory training.

The course is delivered via smartphone, tablet or computer. With interactive exercises, employees learn how to identify and respond to incidents and complaints of sexual harassment, and employers can monitor their completion through a learning management system, using real-time analytics.

“This animated, engaging and cost-effective e-learning course is a compliance tool that helps employers reduce risk, and sends a clear leadership message that sexual harassment will not be tolerated,” she says.

Over four 10-minute episodes, sexual harassment is explored through the stories of staff and managers at a fictitious company known as Future Generation.

Ryley’s interest in public law and constitutional issues dates back to her pre-law life as a history student at Queen’s University. She was heavily involved in campus politics, and sat on the principal’s advisory committee on the status of women.

“There was a great deal going on around university campuses at that time, and looking back I can see that all these things were pointing me in the direction of human rights and public interest law,” Ryley says.

Following her articles at Bay Street giant Borden Ladner Gervais LLP, Ryley’s first legal job was as assistant commission counsel to the Walkerton Inquiry into the tainted water scandal that resulted in seven deaths and thousands of people becoming ill.

The theme continued when Ryley acted for a party with standing at the Toronto Computer Leasing Inquiry into municipal tendering practices.  

Her lengthy experience in public law includes several years with the Ontario Human Rights Commission and the Human Rights Legal Support Centre.

“It was a high-volume litigation practice with a huge range of cases and clients," she says.

Litigating and mediating many sexual harassment cases formed the basis for the animated episodes of Ryley Learning’s online course, bringing to life the recurring themes.

Ryley Learning videos are infused with humour, inspired by famous female comedy acts.

“These are women who are able to use comedy to make a hard-hitting point,” she says. “I wanted to create something that would be effective and engaging.”

Additional online material is currently in development, including courses on bullying and other forms of harassment, Ryley adds.

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