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Sexual harassment in the workplace: Know your rights

Sexual harassment in the workplace: Know your rightsIt may no be something you’ve ever experienced, but it still needs to be something you’re able to deal with. Knowing your rights when it comes to sexual harassment in the workplace can give you the tools you need to defuse a potentially explosive situation, and ensure a stress-free working environment going forward.

What is sexual harassment?

Physical, verbal or non-verbal harassment is defined as any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature, including physical contact, verbal suggestions or innuendo, indecent exposure or the display of explicit images. Should an employee use their position to elicit sexual favours in exchange for a promotion, raise or similar, this is also a form of sexual harassment.

What to do about it

Sexual harassment in the workplace is never appropriate and must be dealt with swiftly and decisively. Keep in mind the steps to take should it ever occur to stand up for yourself as powerfully as possible. There are a number of steps you can take to stop inappropriate behaviour from reoccurring, each one a further escalation of the matter.

1 Talk to the person harassing you. Ask them to stop, and tell them you will file a report if their behaviour continues.

2 Report it to your immediate supervisor. Should the situation persist, make a detailed note of the times and places that any incidents occurred, and if possible, discreetly enquire from colleagues as to whether they have received the same treatment from the person in question.

3 Make a formal complaint. Take your complaint to your HR representative. They should be able to help you with the next steps to follow.

4 Escalate the situation to your company’s senior management. Should nothing come of the HR meetings, make sure to represent all documents and evidence to management to support your case.

5 Contact the CCMA. If no action is taken by the company, file a charge at the CCMA, and consider hiring legal representation in order to file a lawsuit.

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