Sex­ual ha­rass­ment in the work­place

Zululand Observer - Weekender - - ZO OPINION -

EV­ERY per­son is en­ti­tled to work in an en­vi­ron­ment that is free of sex­ual ha­rass­ment, where em­ploy­ers and em­ploy­ees re­spect one an­other’s in­tegrity and dig­nity, their pri­vacy, and their right to eq­uity in the work­place. De­spite en­deav­ours to elim­i­nate sex­ual ha­rass­ment in the work­place, it re­mains an in­sid­i­ous prob­lem.

Any un­wanted con­duct of a sex­ual na­ture is re­garded as sex­ual ha­rass­ment. It in­cludes in­ter alia phys­i­cal con­duct of a sex­ual na­ture that may range from touch­ing to sex­ual as­sault or even a strip search by or in the pres­ence of the op­po­site sex.

Sex­ual ha­rass­ment does not have to be phys­i­cal and there­fore in­cludes ver­bal forms of sex­ual ha­rass­ment such as un­wel­come in­nu­en­does, com­ments with sex­ual over­tones, sex-re­lated jokes or in­sults or even the dis­play of sex­u­ally ex­plicit pic­tures.

Although sex­ual ha­rass­ment usu­ally re­lates to the em­ployer and em­ployee re­la­tion­ship, the per­pe­tra­tors and vic­tims of sex­ual ha­rass­ment may in­clude own­ers, man­agers, su­per­vi­sors, clients, sup­pli­ers, con­trac­tors or oth­ers hav­ing deal­ings with a busi­ness.

Although most vic­tims of sex­ual ha­rass­ment are women, the crime is not gen­der spe­cific.

The ef­fect of sex­ual ha­rass­ment on the vic­tim is not only lim­ited to be­ing threat­ened with job loss or loss of ben­e­fits (such as a pro­mo­tion) but also in­cludes a cy­cle of emo­tional and psy­cho­log­i­cal abuse that may neg­a­tively af­fect their fam­ily re­la­tion­ships.

What should you do if you are a vic­tim of sex­ual ha­rass­ment at the work­place?

The Labour Re­la­tions Act con­tains a Code of Good Prac­tice on Sex­ual Ha­rass­ment that sets out the best ways to deal with com­plaints.

As sex­ual ha­rass­ment is an un­fair labour prac­tice em­ploy­ers are legally obliged to de­velop clear pro­ce­dures in line with the Code of Good Prac­tice to deal with sex­ual ha­rass­ment.

The first step is to tell your ha­rasser to stop the un­wel­come con­duct. If you are un­able to ap­proach your ha­rasser, turn to your col­leagues for sup­port.

Make sure that you keep all forms of ev­i­dence that prove the ha­rass­ment such as notes and let­ters, etc.

If you want to pro­ceed in a for­mal man­ner against your ha­rasser you need to spec­ify to whom the em­ployee should lodge the griev­ance whilst ref­er­ence must also be made to time frames and pro­vide that if the case is not re­solved sat­is­fac­to­rily, the is­sue can be dealt with in terms of the dis­pute pro­ce­dures con­tained in item 7(7) of this code.

It should fur­ther­more be noted that our le­gal sys­tem makes pro­vi­sion that a vic­tim of sex­ual ha­rass­ment may in­sti­tute a civil and or crim­i­nal ac­tion against the ha­rasser for vi­o­lat­ing his/her right to dig­nity and bod­ily in­tegrity.

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