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Are you protecting your employees from all five forms of sexual harassment?

by , 27 November 2013
Want to take decisive action when dealing with sexual harassment cases in the workplace? If so, read on to discover the different forms of sexual harassment so you know what to watch for.

City Press is reporting that a Cape Town metro police officer has approached the Equality Court for redress after a female colleague allegedly repeatedly sexually harassed him.

The 39-year-old superintendent is accusing the City of Cape Town of failing to protect him from the officer, of the same rank, who allegedly made sexually provocative remarks and once stroked his thigh.

In court papers, the officer says the problems began in January, when he had to raise the height of his computer screen to avoid the woman's stares. Incidents included her asking to sit on his lap and suggesting undressing in front of him.

The man also alleges that he once he played with a stress ball in the office and her colleague appeared in the doorway. '[She] opened her legs and suggested I need to bowl the stress ball through her legs.'

And he says he has launched the legal action as a last resort after his managers did not take his complaints seriously.

The City of Cape Town could have avoided this legal action by taking decisive action to deal with the matter instead of ignoring it.

The good news is you can avoid ending up at the Equality Court.

How can you do this?

If you want to effectively deal with sexual harassment, you must understand what it means and the different forms it can take.

What are the different forms of sexual harassment?

The Practical Guide to Human Resource Management explains that sexual harassment may include unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct.

In the case mentioned above, the woman's conduct towards the officer may be considered as unwelcome conduct.

Here's a checklist of conduct you can regard as sexual harassment:

#1: Physical conduct of a sexual nature includes all unwanted physical contact, ranging from touching to sexual assault and rape. This includes a strip search by, or in the presence of, the opposite sex.

#2: Verbal forms of sexual harassment include unwelcome innuendos, suggestions and hints, sexual advances, comments with sexual overtones, sex-related jokes or insults or unwelcome graphic comments about a person's body made in their presence or directed toward them.

Unwelcome and inappropriate enquiries about a person's sex life and unwelcome whistling directed at a person is also considered sexual harassment.

#3: Non-verbal forms of sexual harassment include unwelcome gestures, indecent exposure and the unwelcome display of sexually explicit pictures and objects.

Calendars and posters that have sexual undertones are included in this category.

#4: According to the Guide , quid pro quo harassment occurs where an owner, employer, supervisor, member of management or co-employee undertakes or attempts to influence the process of employment, promotion, training, discipline, dismissal, salary increment or other benefit of an employee or job applicant, in exchange for sexual favours.

#5: Sexual favouritism is also a form of sexual harassment. Sexual favouritism exists where a person who's in a position of authority rewards only those who respond to his sexual advances, while other deserving employees who don't submit themselves to any sexual advances are denied promotions, merit rating or salary increases.

Keep in mind that this list isn't exhaustive but lists the more common forms of sexual harassment.

The one thing you should learn from the case mentioned is that you must deal with sexual harassment complaints decisively. And this entails knowing the type of conduct that's regarded as sexual harassment.

If you don't act, you could end up with a legal dispute on your hands just like the City of Cape Town.

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