This has become an increasing form of harassment at workplaces in the world today. It involves the violation of an individual’s right to privacy and dignity at workplace on gender and sexual preference basis. It is applicable to both sexes i. e. males and females. If a workmate, colleague or superior brings excessive pressure or action to bear on an individual, which is clearly distressing to the person’s sexuality differences e. g. homosexuality, transgender or gender, then this constitutes as sexual harassment.
This usually takes in many forms and some of them include; (i) Use of unwanted and unwelcomed, inappropriate physical contact with a sexual connotation e. g. touching on the shoulder, thighs, brushing of the hands or fingers on e. g. Woman’s chest etc. (ii) Use of suggestive proposition or language which especially emphasizes on the gender or sexuality preferences of an individual e. g. ‘short, tight skirts bring out your thighs nicely,’ “don’t touch me you fag or weirdo” etc. iii) Use of public jokes which particular embarrass a particular gender or intimidate, in and out of workplace. (iv) The use of offensive poster and graffiti that degrades any gender or a particular sexuality.
(v) The isolation and non-co-operation at work of any gender or sexuality. This involves hiding of information, and not involving the individual in discussion and rubbishing any suggestion they come up with etc. (vi) Shunning an individual at work and socially. This involves not sharing of workplace resources e. g. rinter, telephones etc. This is usually done deliberately to avoid any contact with the particular individual. (vii) Pestering a person, by asking inappropriate and offensive questions. This is particularly experienced by the homosexuals and transgender individuals. (viii) Inappropriate and unwelcomed favors and request for social that are sexually suggestive. (ix) The use of pornographic, degrading pictures (as screen savers on computer) at the work place that particularly attacks a specific gender or sexual preferences.
However, sometimes these actions escalate and become gravely serious, example:- (i) Use of promise rewards especially in promotion for a staff or even recruitment. A superior can suggests a sexual favor, so that the particular employee can get a good recommendation or even a wonderful job performance appraisal. (ii) The use of explicit and implied threats of non-compliance by the employee. This is usually a misuse of institutional position. A particular employee can be threatened with termination, delayment of salary or wages, reduction of salary payment etc.
Ways of preventing and minimizing sexual harassment There are certain ways to prevent and deal with both employees and employers. The European commission in its recommendation on protection of the dignity of women and mean at work (November 1991); “Member states should take action to promote awareness that conduct of a sexual nature, or other conduct bases on sex affecting the dignity of women and men at work, including conduct of superior and colleagues, is unacceptable if;
(i)Such conduct is unwanted, unreasonable and offensive to the recipient. ii) Persons rejections of, or submission to, such conduct is used explicitly as a basis for promotion or any other employment decision. (iii) Such conduct created an intimated hostile or humiliating work environment for the recipient. To prevent this can employer needs to minimize the possibility of sexual harassment through the production and publishing of clear policy statement on this issue to include example of harassment and its likely effects, and to make clear the standards expected to employees and the penalties available for those who breach them.
They should also ensure that appropriate communication system exist to enable employees to report sexual harassment in confidence. They should also ensure that appropriate disciplinary measures are in operation to deal fairly with offenders. All allegations of sexual harassment should be investigated and dealt with without delay. There should be appropriate counseling for recipients and offenders. At the same time internal communications should give wide publicity to the organizations intentions regarding the harassment of fellow employees.
Sample policy and procedures dealing with complains dealing with sexual harassment include. (i) The complainant who has been harassed can verbally speak or write as statement to the alleged harasser and explain that the conduct shown was inappropriate, unwelcomed, offensive and not respective. This should be done if necessary in the presence of a third individual e. g. a workmate, head of human resource manager. The conversation should be polite, cordial but firm. Alleged harasser should be advice that the conduct is unacceptable and won’t be tolerate.
It’s important that copies should be made orally by use of video-taped. This will help in any follow-up action in the future if necessary. (ii)If the situation is too difficult or uncomfortable, a supervisor, colleague should accompany the individual (victim). (iii)If the above fails, the head of the human resource management should be involved. The human resource management has an obligation to investigate the compliant and discuss with the alleged harasser on the findings. If the findings are true, repercussions should follow.
NOTE: Careful considerations should be taken care-off to avoid misuses of this harassment, by an employee, staff looking for revenge, intimidation or wanting to manipulate hi/her superiors. Hence careful analyzing and fact-finding should be used, no mater how uncomfortable or painful, it is for both parties. After, the whole procedure the following outcome should be employed and include;- (i)Counseling for the complaint and alleged harasser or offender to resolve any tension and reconciliation to occur. ii)Use of oral and written formal warning which should be filed for future references for both parties. (iii)Use of changing of work place location of either parties e. g. changing of department or building floor etc. (iv)If there are any attack, stalking, threats, this should be reported to the police for protection and carry out any necessary investigation. (v)If the harassment continues, to the same complainant by same offender or to a new complainant dismissal should be the only option immediately by the organization