Personal Finance

How to deal with sexual harassment

STRESS
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Summary

  • Do not give in and do not resign just yet until you do the following: The first thing is to try and keep a record or evidence of actions of sexual harassment.
  • This is because you will need to back up your claims for sexual harassment later on.
  • Once you have enough evidence, then report her either to human resource or to top tier management.

I read in one of the dailies’ agony columns something that I should share and address today.

Peter, a married man with two children, said how his female superviser of more than 10 years has consistently given him low marks in performance appraisals.

Other bosses recognised his effort going by their ranking in the performance reviews. So, one day, he marshalled a rare strength to face the female boss with the question.

At first, she dodged the question but later opened up, saying this frustration would continue if the man did not sleep with her!

She gave him the option of quitting the company altogether, claiming that she is well connected and Peter could take her nowhere within the company ranks.

Peter said he loves his wife, but also indicated that he needs the job to make ends meet.

Here’s my response to Peter directly:

Dear Peter, I have a way out for you. Before I answer you, I want to set out your legal rights.

Generally, under the Constitution you have a right called the freedom from discrimination under Article 27. Under Article 28 of the Constitution you have a right to be treated with human dignity. Both of these rights have been abused by your employer.

When it comes to employment laws, your supervisor’s actions are tantamount to sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is an unwelcome sexual advance or behaviour that is humiliating, offensive and intimidating.

Most of the times, the victim of sexual harassment is threatened with dire consequences if he does not comply with the demands. In your case, sexual harassment is clear because your boss has threatened you that you shall lose your job if you do not give in to her demands.

Do not give in and do not resign just yet until you do the following: The first thing is to try and keep a record or evidence of actions of sexual harassment.

This is because you will need to back up your claims for sexual harassment later on. Once you have enough evidence, then report her either to human resource or to top tier management.

For example, if she has a supervisor report her. Follow your company’s grievance mechanism if you have one. Put your grievance in writing and request for audience with the top management.

If the top management takes action against her then this will be good for you.

However, suppose top management takes her side and refuse to sack her what will you do? You may be forced to resign, due to the hostile work environment.

Such an environment can take a toll on your psychological, mental and emotional wellbeing.

CONTRACT BREACH

If you do resign due to sexual harassment, then you have a good claim against your former workplace for constructive dismissal.

According to Black’s Law Dictionary constructive dismissal happens where an employer’s creation of work conditions leaves an employee with little choice but to resign.

The conduct by the employer must be very oppressive and constitute a significant breach of contract. The burden of proof lies on you the employee, therefore it is important to collect sufficient evidence before filing a claim for constructive dismissal.

Such a claim would be filed through a lawsuit at the High Court. There have been several successful constructive termination cases.