Sexual harassment in the workplace explained - know your rights

2016-08-03 06:00

TURNING Point Amanzimtoti, an NGO, that assists abused women and provide counselling for traumatised victims, highlights sexual harassment in the workplace as a form of abuse in view of Women’s Month.

Sexual harassment is an offence and it is common in many companies, but swept under the carpet because victims fear losing their job if they report it.
People need to understand what sexual harassment is and companies should consider creating awareness about the issue.

What is sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment is unwelcome sexually determined behaviour, like physical contact advances, sexually coloured remarks, showing pornography and sexual demands, (whether by words or actions.)

Slapping a woman or man on his or her behind is harassment, but some people take it lightly, but it is degrading and disrespectful.

Sexual harassment includes behaviour which may appear relatively innocent - such as joking, innuendoes, flirting, insinuations, hints and asking someone on a date - behaviour that is blatantly illegal, such as forced fondling, attempted or actual rape and sexual assault.

Sex conduct in the workplace is unwelcome when an employee does not solicit or initiate the conduct, and when employees regard the conduct as undesirable and offensive.

Types of sexual harassment

Forms of sexual harassment include physical violence and more subtle forms of violence, such as coercion (pressure) or the creation of hostile work environment. Hostile environment in the workplace can make one’s performance drop due the lack of drive or motivation to come to work because of the harassment one has to endure in the work place.
Hostile environment in the workplace can make one’s performance drop due to the lack of drive or motivation to come to work, because of the harassment one has to endure in the workplace.

Creating a harassment-free workplace

Some of the things that create a harassment-free environment in the workplace could be an anti-harassment policy. All member of the workplace must know the policy.

Lay out a clear protocol for responding to the harassment policy. Make sure the steps for reporting sexual harassment are clear to everyone.

Include examples on what will be done should one staff member tries to do this. Make the work environment comfortable enough for people to be able to feel safe and listened to when one feels uncomfortable while in the workplace. Note, harassment is a form of abuse.

Contact Turning Point for further information regarding sexual harassment or awareness on 031 903 7777.
- Supplied.

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