When it comes to buying real estate, they say the three most important things are location, location, location. When considering matters of workplace discrimination and harassment, the three most important things are context, context, context.
Harassment is defined by the Ontario Human Rights Code as “a course of vexatious comment or conduct that is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome.” This definition makes it clear that the act itself needs to be considered in context, because it is not just the behaviour (a course of vexatious comment or conduct) but the context—that is, whether it is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome—that must be considered.
Yes, sometimes there are comments or behaviours that clearly would be deemed to be harassment or inappropriate for the workplace.
For most comment or behaviours, employees, managers, and those investigating complaints must consider the context.