ARE YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW A VICTIM OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT?
What is sexual harassment?
Sexual harassment can be defined as any conduct of a sexual nature that is unwanted and that makes another person feel uncomfortable.
Sexual harassment can take many other forms such as:
- Sexual favouritism; and
- Quid pro quo.
What are some examples of Sexual harassment?
If you are unsure what could constitute as sexual harassment some examples are:
- Any unwanted sexual statements: this would include any dirty jokes, explicit drawings, rating ones sexual performance, comments about one’s body. This can take the form by being verbal or written.
- Unwanted personal attention: this includes any phone calls, letters and any pressure of dates and unwanted sexual favour offers.
- Unwanted physical advances: This is the most obvious type. This includes hugging, touching, kissing, sexual assault and fondling.
Who can conduct an act of sexual harassment?
It is a myth that only fellow employees or supervisors are the only ones that commit acts of sexual harassment and that the rest cannot be claimed against. In reality the list includes but is not limited to the following people:
- Job applicants;
- Suppliers; and
This list then shows that an act can be committed by anyone who has any dealings with the company or business.
What is my responsibility as an employee if I am a victim of sexual harassment?
This would be according to the code of good practice of your work place. The consensus between most codes of good practice and the Labour Relations Act states that an employee who either witnessed or is a victim of sexual harassment must report this to the human resources department of their workplace.
This report depending on the severity should usually be done in writing as proof where an investigation can take place wherein the perpetrator can go through a disciplinary hearing where his or her actions are proved.
The consequences of an incident going unreported gives the perpetrator power to continue their actions where it can escalate either on the current or new victim.
What are the employer’s responsibilities?
Once the supervisor or employer has become aware of any complaint of sexual harassment must immediately open an investigation to establish the liability of the accused. The employer also needs to ensure the victim that their matter has been taken seriously and that something is being done to establish the accused’s conduct and that if any that the necessary punishment will be given.
The employer usually sits and consults with both the victim and the accused to ascertain the problem and try to find out if there is a way to resolve the issue between the parties.
If it has been established that the employee has indeed committed such an offence then the employer must conduct a disciplinary hearing and depending on the severity the employer must fire the employee.
What are my other options?
If a matter has not been resolved in 30 days after the complaint is lodged then a case may be lodged at the CCMA whereby the usual proceedings of Conciliation, Arbitration and Mediation will take place. If the employer has found to be negligent in not resolving the dispute the employer and the accused can be found guilty jointly and severally.
One may also however lay a criminal charge against the accused.
What can Schwenn Incorporated do for me?
Schwenn Incorporated prides itself in helping both individuals and companies so whether you are an employee or employer who needs help whether it is looking at contracts, litigation, holding a mediation or arbitration or drafting a solid code of practice we can help you. You can contact Schwenn Incorporated at 031 003 0630 or contact Charmaine Schwenn on Charmaine@schwenninc.co.za.