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Revealed: Four essential questions that'll help you deal with sexual harassment in the workplace

by , 14 October 2013
The Code of Good Practice on the Handling of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace gives clear guidelines and direction on how to deal with sexual harassment. Read on to discover the four questions that'll help you deal with this sensitive subject effectively.

If you're not sure of how to deal with sexual harassment in the workplace, don't worry.

Below, the Labour Law for Managers Loose Leaf Service outlines how the Code of Good Practice on the Handling of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace wants you to handle the matter.

The litmus test: Four essential questions you need to ask about sexual harassment

Question #1: Is the harassment on a prohibited ground?

Sexual harassment in the workplace is a form of unfair discrimination. It's prohibited on the grounds of:

  • Sex
  • Gender
  • Sexual orientation.

Keep in mind that same-sex harassment can amount to discrimination on the basis of sex, gender and sexual orientation.

Question #2: Was the conduct unwelcome?

The Code indicates that an employee may indicate that sexual conduct is unwelcome in different ways. This includes non-verbal conduct such as walking away or not responding to the perpetrator.

The harassment may, however, consist of a single incident and there may be no opportunity to communicate that the conduct is unwelcome.

In this situation, the test will be do determine whether the perpetrator should reasonably have known that the conduct would be unwelcome.

Here's a checklist of how to prove if sexual conduct was unwelcome

To determine whether the conduct was unwelcome, the following four factors may be relevant, says the Loose Leaf Service.

  1. Whether the complainant willingly participated in the conduct
  2. Whether the complainant made her or his supervisors aware that she or he would consider this conduct unwelcome in the future.
  3. Whether the period of time that elapsed between the occurrence of the conduct and the complaint indicates a specific reaction.
  4. How the complainant responded.

Question #3: What is the nature and extent of the conduct?

The unwelcome conduct must be of a sexual nature and includes physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct.

  • Physical conduct can range from physical touching, to lewd gestures, to other less directly physical acts like spying on a person in a toilet or change-room.
  • Verbal conduct can range from the suggestive and romantic, to the crude and offensive, to a blatant demand for sex.
  • Non-verbal conduct of a sexual nature includes unwelcome gestures, indecent exposure and displaying or sending sexually explicit pictures or objects by electronic means or other means.

Question #4: What's the impact of the sexual conduct on the victim?

The conduct must constitute an impairment of the employee's dignity. This means you must take into account:

  • The circumstances of the employee
  • The respective positions of the employee
  • And the perpetrator in the workplace.

If you find yourself dealing with a sexual harassment case in your workplace, these are the questions you should find answers to. They'll help you handle the matter efficiently.



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