Discrimination in the Workplace: Sexual Harassment

Discrimination in the Workplace: Sexual Harassment

Human Resources

Ensure that you have a Sexual Harassment Policy in place!

The Employment Equity Act states that harassment, which includes sexual harassment, is a form of unfair discrimination and is prohibited.

What is sexual harassment?
According to the code of good practice sexual harassment is any unwanted conduct of a sexual nature.

  1. Sexual harassment may include unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct, but is not limited to the examples listed as follows:
    • Physical conduct of a sexual nature
    • Verbal forms of sexual harassment
    • Non-verbal forms of sexual harassment
    • Quid pro quo harassment occurs where an owner, employer, supervisor, member of management or co-employee undertakes or attempts to influence the process of employment, promotion, training, discipline, dismissal, salary increment or other benefit of an employee or job applicant, in exchange for sexual favours.
  2. Sexual favouritism exists where a person who is in a position of authority rewards only those who respond to his/her advances.

When conducting training, I find that many employers and employees are not clear on exactly what constitutes harassment, especially when the conduct verges on the line of being innocent or well meaning. An example on this is calling people “sweet lips”. Some individuals are 100% certain that this is sexual harassment, others not so sure and still others are dead certain that it is not.

The challenge with this lack of clarity is that each person will use their own point of reference when deciding appropriate and inappropriate behaviour. So what one person deems appropriate another may take great offence to.

There is no limit on the monetary award for unfair discrimination at CCMA.

As the employer, it is your responsibility to firstly protect your employees, clients and associates from sexual harassment and secondly to ensure that you adequately deal with allegations relating to sexual harassment. Should you fail to adhere to either of these responsibilities, you could face a costly consequence.

Having a Sexual Harassment Policy can go a long way to ensure that you can protect yourself and all those at your workplace.