Vincy Workplace
November 9, 2012

Reviewing Sexual Harassment

In many countries, it is mandated by law that all employees attend sexual harassment training annually to refresh their minds as to what is acceptable behaviour in the workplace, so why don’t we do the same thing? Even though I’ve written about sexual harassment, at least twice, let’s do a refresher with a basic question-and-answer segment.{{more}}

Many people are uncomfortable addressing the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace. There are those who believe it is just a bunch of nonsense and others hurry to push the issue under the rug to avoid it altogether. Regardless of your personal feelings about this issue, it needs to be addressed as these are changing times. This article will address some basic questions to help you understand sexual harassment.

Q. What is sexual harassment?

A. It is unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favours, verbal statements or physical contact that are of a sexual nature, or displaying objects or pictures that are sexually suggestive.

Q. What should I do if I think I’ve been sexually harassed?

A. Let the person know immediately that their behaviour is not welcomed. If it persists, report the incident to a supervisor immediately. Document the incident and keep a personal record, in the event you may need legal representation.

Q. What should I do if my supervisor is the offender?

A. Report the incident to your human resources office immediately. If you do not have a human resources department, go to the person in charge of handling employee complaints.

Q. Is flirting sexual harassment?

A. It can only be classified as sexual harassment if the person you have an interest in considers this behaviour unwanted and unwelcomed. The general rule is to avoid flirtatious behaviour on the job.

Q. How do I know if the person does not like my behaviour?

A. You can always ask. The person can let you know verbally, or with her or his body language. When you are told “no,” you must accept it, even if you don’t believe it. “NO” MEANS “NO.”

Q. Is sexual harassment only between persons of the opposite sex?

A. No. Sexual harassment can also occur female to female or male to male.

Somewhere, in any given workplace, a woman (or man) is enduring unwelcome comments, gestures or advances from a man (or a woman) in whom she has no interest. She has not spoken out because she fears losing her job and/or does not want to suffer the ridicule that may come if she makes this issue public, so she says nothing.

Without a doubt, it is the employer’s responsibility to lay the foundation for a healthy work environment. Ensuring that sexual harassment is not tolerated is also a part of that responsibility. Workers want to know that their work is valued, but they also want to feel safe in the place they spend most of their days. What can employers do?

1. Adopt a sexual harassment policy. Companies worldwide are beginning to realize the legal ramifications of not having and enforcing a sexual harassment policy. If your company does not have such a policy, there are lots of examples readily available. There are also training companies and human resource companies that can help you develop one.

2. Educate your employees. It’s not enough to adapt a policy; all employees must be aware of the policy. In some countries when complaints are brought against a company, the government makes sexual harassment training mandatory for all employees and stiff penalties are also levied against that institution.

3. Deal with offenders. If an employer is aware that a man or woman is being harassed in the workplace and does nothing, that employer is just as guilty as the offender, because in essence the company is condoning the behaviour by not addressing it. With that said, each sexual harassment complaint must be investigated, dealt with immediately and resolved in a timely fashion.

Karen Hinds is “The Workplace Success Expert.” For a FREE SPECIAL REPORT on Avoiding Career Killers in the Workplace, send an email to
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