#Article (Archive)

Zero Tolerance for Sexual Harassment

Apr 30, 2008, 5:38 AM

Foroyaa has reported an alleged case of sexual harassment in the workplace in recent days. Of course that particular case is still just an allegation but its reporting does raise important issues. How many people are being sexually harassed and are afraid to report it?

This is a very serious matter. It must be made clear to all employees by their employers that this behaviour is simply not acceptable. It can make life hell for the person at the receiving end.

The difficult thing is that it can be very difficult to prove. For this reason the person being harassed must keep a very careful log of the abuse and gather as much evidence as possible to use in proving the case. Evidence is vital in these kinds of situations as it can often be just one person's word against another. What many people forget is the effect this harassment can have on a person even when they are not in the work place. The negative effects of such behaviour can often continue to torment a person when they are at home trying to enjoy their well earned rest. Sexual harassment can be easily defined as any behaviour -of a sexual nature- which causes a person to feel uncomfortable. It can take many forms including verbal and physical. Many people have different levels of tolerance for behaviour of this kind. Obviously in a work place inappropriate touching or overt comments cannot be tolerated. But if any comment or behaviour of a sexual nature leads one person to tell another they are uncomfortable and the behaviour persists it is harassment. 

Unfortunately it can often happen that harassment goes hand in hand with the abuse of power. For this reason all employers must introduce strict codes of conduct that will allow and employee to get satisfaction in relation to a claim even if the offender is the head of the company. In this case an outside agency should be established along the lines of the ombudsman but applicable to both the public and private sectors.

What is perhaps most important is that we create a climate whereby the person suffering the abuse is not afraid or ashamed to come forward and report the situation. There is no shame in being the subject of this kind of behaviour and this must be made clear to all. This will create an open and accepting environment where the scourge of sexual harassment in the workplace can perish in the cold light of day.