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Simmers gets off scot-free for sexual harassment! See why the Labour Court overruled his dismissal

by , 06 June 2014
The Times reports that the Cape Town Labour Court has ruled against a disciplinary inquiry that found Adrian Simmers guilty of sexual harassment after he asked a business colleague if she wanted a 'lover for the night'.

According to the report, Campbell Scientific Africa dismissed Adrian Simmers, an installation manager, after a disciplinary inquiry found him guilty of sexual harassment, unprofessional conduct and bringing the company into disrepute.

What are the facts of the case?

In 2012, Simmers went to Botswana on a work trip. While on the trip, his colleague, Frederick le Roux and environmental consultant Catherine Markides joined him and they had dinner.

The newspaper reports that, after dinner, Simmers asked Markides if she wants a lover for the night and when she said 'no', he said: 'If you change your mind during the night come to my room.'

What did the Labour Court find? Was Campbell Scientific Africa right in showing Simmers the door?

Continue reading to find out and how to deal with cases of sexual harassment correctly.

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The Labour Court ruled as follows in the Simmers sexual harassment case

According to the report, the Labour Court found that, while Simmers' behaviour was inappropriate, it didn't justify dismissal, especially since it was a first time offence. It also found that Simmers backed off and didn't touch Markides and they weren't co-employees.

The Court has told Campbell Scientific Africa to give Simmers a final written warning (which will be valid for a year) instead.

While Campbell Scientific Africa prepares to appeal the ruling, you can't ignore the fact that this case shows that employers must deal with cases of sexual harassment correctly.

If you want to avoid landing at the Labour Court like Campbell Scientific Africa, ask yourself these four things when dealing with a sexual harassment case.

The litmus test: Four essentials for sexual harassment

You must ask yourself these four things so you can determine whether or not sexual harassment took place:

#1: Is the harassment on a prohibited ground (based on sex, gender or sexual orientation)?

Sexual harassment in a work environment is prohibited on the grounds of sex, gender or sexual orientation.

#2: Is the conduct unwelcome?

An employee can indicate that sexual conduct is unwelcome in different ways. This includes walking away or not responding to the perpetrator, says the Practical Guide to Human Resources Management.

There are two more things you must look at when you deal with sexual harassment cases.

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

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

#4: What is the impact of the sexual conduct on the victim?

Here, you must look at whether or not the conduct infringes on the victim's dignity.

The Times rightly summarised the findings of this case when it said: The court found Simmers was just trying his luck, it wasn't harassment.

The important point here is that to deal with a sexual harassment case correctly, you have to determine whether sexual harassment really happened. And then look at all the aggravating factors before you dismiss an employee. Looking at the four things we've outlined is your first step. This way, you won't land at the Labour Court for dealing with the case incorrectly.

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