Sexual harassment in the workplace: Terence Pillay investigates

Sexual harassment in the workplace: Terence Pillay investigates

With the #MeToo Movement having gained significant ground the world over, Terence Pillay looks at sexual harassment in the workplace and gets the lowdown from some labour law experts. 

Sexual Harassment Complaint Form / iStock
Sexual Harassment Complaint Form / iStock

Listen to the audio and read the details below:

I usually get emailed a number of leads to stories that people need investigating and last week, a young woman sent me an email about an over-friendly boss at her new job.

*Lisa (not her real name) started a new job after being unemployed for almost a year and a half. She aced her interview and on paper was ideally qualified for the position. Two weeks into her new job and she sensed that her boss, who she describes as being “a little too touchy-feely” was interested in her as more than an employee.

Lisa says he was quite friendly with everyone, but the women at the company got a little more attention than they would have liked. Lisa says he didn’t come right out and touch her inappropriately, but his too close for comfort interactions and hugs in the morning and afternoon made her extremely uncomfortable. But what should she do? 

Willie Bloem is a Labour Law Practioner, who says the law is very specific when it comes to sexual attention and sexual harassment in the workplace.

According to the Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration (or CCMA), there is a labour law code when it comes to sexual harassment in the workplace. The objective of this code is to eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace. This code provides appropriate procedures to deal with the problem and prevent its recurrence. The code encourages and promotes the development and implementation of policies and procedures that will lead to the creation of workplaces that are free of sexual harassment, where employers and employees respect one another's integrity and dignity, their privacy, and their right to equity in the workplace.

Forms of sexual harassment

According to the CCMA, there are many forms of sexual harassment.

(1) Sexual harassment may include unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct, but is not limited to the examples listed as follows:

(a) Physical conduct of a sexual nature includes all unwanted physical contact, ranging from touching to sexual assault and rape, and includes a strip search by or in the presence of the opposite sex.

(b) Verbal forms of sexual harassment include unwelcome innuendoes, suggestions and hints, sexual advances, comments with sexual overtones, sex-related jokes or insults or unwelcome graphic comments about a person's body made in their presence or directed toward them, unwelcome and inappropriate enquiries about a person's sex life, and unwelcome whistling directed at a person or group of persons.

(c) Non-verbal forms of sexual harassment include unwelcome gestures, indecent exposure, and the unwelcome display of sexually explicit pictures and objects.

(d) Quid pro quo harassment occurs where an owner, employer, supervisor, member of management or co-employee, undertakes or attempts to influence the process of employment, promotion, training, discipline, dismissal, salary increment or other benefit of an employee or job applicant, in exchange for sexual favours.

(2) Sexual favouritism exists where a person who is in a position of authority rewards only those who respond to his/her sexual advances, whilst other deserving employees who do not submit themselves to any sexual advances are denied promotions, merit rating or salary increases.

So in the interests of promoting a healthy and safe workspace, I’ve teamed up with a labour lawyer and we are going to be dishing out some practical advice next week as well as look at some case law and examples of what not to do.

If you believe that you are being sexually harassed in your workplace and are at a loss of what to do, then send me an email and I will get the labour lawyer to look at the case and provide advice. You can remain anonymous and your identity will not be revealed.

You can email Terence Pillay at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter and tweet him your thoughts. 

ALSO READ: Men, it’s time to man up and face the truth

If you missed any of The Good, The Bad and Ugly episodes, catch up on them below: 

Show's Stories