Laws regarding Sexual Harassment at the Workplace

Sexual harassment is a type of sex discrimination. In it, the victim feels intimidated and mortified by any undesirable or unwanted sexual behavior. These sexual advances are not reciprocated or consensual. It is also highly contrary to everyday interactions, flirting or friendship among workers.

In a few circumstances, sexual harassment is against the law as stated by the Sex Discrimination Act 1984.These advances include, undesirable physical touching, sexual innuendos or remarks, requests for dates or sex, staring, sending sexual content through emails or text messages, or having journals, posters, or screensavers, which are inappropriate and of a sexual nature.

Sexual Harassment at the Workplace

Sexual harassment doesn’t have to take place at the workplace to be considered workplace harassment. Workplace sexual harassment consists of any harassment of a sexual nature; which is either during work hours, during activities of work, such as training, conferences, parties, functions or trips; or harassment that takes place away from the office but is the result of or initiated from a workplace scenario.

Sexual harassment at work can create many problems for the employees and the employers. These include; stress, employee resignation, less productivity and low self-esteem. The Equal Opportunity Act, 1984, and Work Health and Safety Act, 2012, work towards the prevention and reporting of such behaviour and look after the employees’ well-being and satisfaction with their work environment.

Employers’ Responsibility

Every workplace needs to have an efficient sexual harassment policy. Although the harasser is the only one who is responsible for their conduct, but in certain situations, employees who are victims, can also file a lawsuit against the organization if they did not take appropriate measures based on previous complaints. Initially, the complaint can be made to the HR department of any organization. Additionally, organizations can implement the following steps on their own to prevent such incidents:

  • Suitable sexual harassment policy
  • Identifying and dealing with sexual harassment within the employees
  • A proper procedure and department for filing such complaints
  • Proper actions taken to counter such situations

Employees’ Responsibility

At times, the victims don’t raise their voices against the injustice done to them, which gives the harasser a false sense of security. They believe that they can do anything without being held accountable for it. If you are an employee facing harassment, you need to take the following steps to stop this humiliation:

  • Warn your fellow colleague to stop such behaviour, either verbally or in writing, and keep that written draft safe with you to use it as evidence in the future. You can also inform the head of your department if notifying the harasser is uncomfortable for you.
  • Keep all proof of such communication with you, such as; emails, phone calls, text messages and even eye witnesses to support your case.
  • Policies at your office will provide you with the right protection so make sure you are aware about such procedures.
  • Support lines are available to record the complaint with the state, if your workplace is not providing you with any legal help.
  • Filing a government complaint is the last option if all your efforts have been fruitless. Anti-discrimination boards can guide the victim about all the legal issues that they will need to tackle in this case.

Many laws have been put in place to protect people from sexual harassment at the workplace. Filing a complaint can be frightening at first, but know that no one has the right to treat you badly. Once the complaint has been made, the responsible department in the organization should conduct surveys and meetings to the true nature of the harassment, taking place within the workplace and provide you with the protection you need without fail.

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