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Think twice before you call someone a Gupta if you don't want to end up in with a harassment charge...

by , 13 May 2013
It's not just low-level employees who insult and verbally harass each other. Take the mayor of Newcastle, for example - an officer from the Road Traffic Inspectorate called mayor Afzul Rehman a Gupta. Rehman isn't letting this slip under the cracks. He's now opened a case of crimen injuria for impairing his dignity at the Labour Court! Here's how to minimise verbal harassment in your workplace so you don't face similar charges...

Newcastle Mayor Afzul Rehman has accused an officer from the Road Traffic Inspectorate (RTI) of making a racial slur against him. 
The officer in question remarked 'Hey Gupta what are you doing here?' when Rehman went to renew his driver's license, says CiiBroadcasting.
When Rehman ignored the comment, the officer cracked another joke about Indians. 
Now, Rehman's escalated the matter by reporting the incident to the department's head, lodging an official complaint and referring the matter to the Equity Court and the Human Rights Commission.
And remarks made unthinkingly by your employees – whether to customers or just among themselves – could land you in similar hot water.
Here's why you need to make your harassment policy clear to your employees…
That's why you need to make sure your employees are absolutely clear on your company's harassment policy, says FSPBusiness.
Because any form of harassment could land you in the Labour Court if you haven't put a harassment policy in place and described exactly what counts as harassment to your employees.
And an employee who is harassed will usually sue the employer, as the employer is more likely to have the money to pay, says The Labour Law for Managers Loose Leaf.
Make sure your employees know what counts as harassment…
Verbal forms of harassment include outright swearing and name calling, as well as any unwelcome innuendos or jokes, says Janine Nieuwoudt in The Practical Guide to Human Resources Management
So it's the unwelcome nature of the action – like the 'Gupta' comments aimed at Rehman – that turns any form of 'attention' into harassment, explains Nieuwoudt.
But some people are oblivious to this.
That's why you need to make it clear to employees that if they should rather leave their colleagues in peace and not provoke them.
The best way to do so is to make sure all your employees attend a short session where the company harassment policy is read out.
You can even include the Gupta name-calling incident as an example. 
Then, get them to sign that they've read the policy and attended a short training session on it. 
This way, you at least have proof that your employees were warned on the company's harassment policy if you need to take action in future. 
So make your company's harassment policy clear by explaining to your employees exactly what counts as verbal harassment.

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