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Discover what constitutes as sexual harassment

by , 23 May 2013
Sexual harassment is unwanted conduct of a sexual nature. Any workplace behaviour that has a sexual connotation that's either implied or explicit and which isn't wanted can constitute sexual harassment. As an employer, you need to take decisive action when you dealing with sexual harassment cases in the workplace. Read on to discover what actions constitute as sexual harassment so you can prevent or deal with it swiftly.

In terms of the Code of Good Practice, you're required to create and maintain a working environment in which the dignity of all your employees is respected

This means you must eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace and provide appropriate procedures to deal with the problem and prevent its recurrence.

'Your company should have a sexual harassment policy in place and all your employees should know and understand the policy and its consequences,' advises the Practical Guide to Human Resources Management.

But, to take decisive and immediate action and investigate employee complaints of sexual harassment, you have to know the kind of conduct that constitutes sexual harassment.

It's regarded as sexual harassment if it's:

  1. Physical conduct of a sexual nature (including 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. This includes 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 an employee's sex life and unwelcome whistling directed at an employee are also considered sexual harassment,' says the Loose Leaf.
  3. Non-verbal sexual harassment like unwelcome gestures, indecent exposure, and the unwelcome display of sexually explicit pictures and objects.
  4. Sexual favouritism. This is 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 four most common forms of sexual harassment.

Knowing what conduct constitutes sexual harassment will allow you to take disciplinary action when dealing with employee complains.


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