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Dealing With Sexual Allegation at Work

The #metoo and #timesup movements have put an intense spotlight on the issue of sexual harassment in recent months. News stories from the political, media, entertainment, and business sectors have exposed the dark reality that sexual harassment in the workplace is an epidemic that has been allowed to persist. Given these recent trends, by the end of 2018, it is likely that every industry will be impacted by the #metoo movement. As a result, organizations are now under immense pressure to look at their own policies and procedures and take a zero-tolerance approach to this behaviour. This, however, is not as easy as it sounds, given there are so many different definitions of sexual harassment around the world.

To properly adjust to the shifting culture, you must first understand how the law defines sexual harassment and ensure this is the definition you adhere to. It is also important – though difficult in this time of change – to keep attuned to cultural norms as well. Behaviour does not have to meet the legal definition of sexual harassment to be seen as unacceptable by the public, and public attitudes about what behaviour is unacceptable are shifting more quickly than the law can keep up with. With that knowledge in hand, the next step is to evaluate how prevalent this issue is in the workplace, and what steps can be taken to address it.

What is harassment at work?

Any unwelcome conduct based on race, colour, religion, sex or other characteristics is defined as harassment at work. It becomes unlawful when the conduct is severe or pervasive to create an intimidating, hostile, or abusive environment.

Sexual harassment addresses a broader range of behaviours than does the sexual assault. Sexual assault requires intentional physical contact of a sexual nature that is not consented to. Sexual harassment can include physical contact but also includes any unwanted sexual attention (per the SCC in Janzen v Platy Enterprises Ltd.).

Incidents of sexual harassment experienced by working women include

  • Unwanted sexual comments, conversation or innuendo from a co-worker
  • Unwanted physical touching, cornering or patting from a co-worker
  • Cat-calls, whistles, or being referred to using derogatory or demeaning sexual terms from a co-worker
  • Unwanted pressure for dates with a co-worker
  • Presence of pornography, or other sexually graphic images at work
  • Unwanted pressure for sexual activity from a co-worker

Not addressing these behaviours can cost employers money (e.g., they are legally responsible for sexual harassment that occurs in their workplaces, especially if they fail to address it appropriately) and can create a poisoned work environment that affects productivity.

Hence it’s important to address report and investigate sexual harassment complaints from a wider aspect and also listing help from reputed lawmakers like MMK Lawyers can give you the legal support know-how as an individual or a company trying to be zero tolerant to such behaviour and practices.

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