Sexual Harassment is an ongoing problem that companies face, and today, more cases have been brought forward to the public spotlight. Let’s discuss further with some frequently asked questions about sexual harassment in the workplace.
Q8. How should I carry out the investigation?
A: It should be stressed that a case of sexual harassment is a sensitive issue. Employers should take care to respect the sensitivities of both the victim and accused. Both should be treated with respect as the process can be traumatising. Should the company notice signs of distress, think about referring either party to an external counsellor.
Q9. What action can I take against a person accused of sexual harassment?
A: If after an investigation, show cause letter and a domestic inquiry has been carried out, the company may take disciplinary action according to S.81C EA 1955 which mirrors S.14 EA 1955 allowing the employer to terminate the employee, and the employer may also downgrade the employee, suspend without pay, or any other lesser punishment the employer feels fit to impose.
Do not forget to inform the victim of the conclusion of the company.
Q10. How do I educate my employees on this issue?
A: As an employer you have the implied obligation of providing a safe and conducive working environment. To educate your employees, you can hold training sessions to explain to the employees what constitutes sexual harassment, how they need to be aware of their actions and the proper procedure in initiating a complaint as well as how the company will react.
You should also think of having a proper sexual harassment policy which informs employees of the non-tolerance of the employer towards sexual harassment. It should also list down the types of actions that constitute sexual harassment and state the complaint procedure for example to whom the complaint should be reported to. It should also have the time frame in which the employer will take to investigate and get a conclusion.
Q11. What steps can a victim take in a case of sexual harassment?
A: The victim will need to be brave and tell the harasser firmly that they want the behaviour to stop. Having a witness present or doing so via email would be better. If the harassment continues, follow the policy of the company and bring the matter up to the person in charge.
Victims should record the details of when, where and how the incidents occur. Having dates, times, locations and details of what was said and done and the name of any witnesses will help the investigation by the company to ensure appropriate action can be taken based on solid evidence.
As an employer, always remember to remain neutral. Both the victim and the accused have rights and the duty of the employer is to investigate cases without prejudice. Understand that sometimes the situation may just be a case of office romance gone sour or a situation that is more serious.