Sexual harassment constitutes any unwelcome behaviour of a sexual nature. It’s not about fun or friendship but about the abuse of power. Many people respond to situations in different ways. What may seem like an innocent action or remark to one person may be deemed offensive by another and the law sides with the ‘victim’ not the ‘perpetrator’. Since there is no single definition, the test is how the recipient feels about the behaviour. The media are constantly full of horrible story’s of residents being abused by there cares in nursing homes, residential homes or even in their own homes. Yet you never hear about sexual harassment story’s within the employment, this doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.
Examples of Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment can occur in a variety of situations. These are examples of sexual harassment, not intended to be all-inclusive.
Unwanted jokes, gestures, offensive words on clothing, and unwelcome comments and repartee.
Touching and any other bodily contact such as scratching or patting a coworker’s back, grabbing an employee around the waiste, or interfering with an employee’s ability to move.
Invading personal space or following employee around the workplace.
Locking you in a room or not letting you out of a room.
Keep these facts in mind.
- The employee harassing another employee can be an individual of the same-sex. Sexual harassment does not imply that the perpetrator is of the opposite sex.
- The harasser can be the employee’s supervisor, manager, customer, co-worker, supplier, peer, or vendor. Any individual who is connected to the employee’s work environment, can be accused of sexual harassment.
- The victim of sexual harassment is not just the employee who is the target of the harassment. Other employees who observe or learn about the sexual harassment can also be the victims and institute charges.
What Can You do About Sexual Harassment?
In the first instance, you should try to confront the harasser. It may be that their perception of harassment is not the same as yours and they didn’t realise you found their behaviour offensive. When you confront them you should:
- Speak clearly and slowly, maintaining direct eye contact
- Describe the behaviour, its effects on you and that you want it to stop
- Ignore any attempts to dismiss what you have to say
- Don’t smile or apologise. This will undermine your complaint
- When you have finished what you want to say, walk away – the less you say, the more powerful you will be
However, you do need to speak up straight away. It may be that you choose a confidante, a colleague or union representative to give you moral support. They could also act as a witness to any incidents of improper behaviour.
Note down in a diary all the behaviour that offends you, the dates, times and location where the behaviour took place and if there were any other people present, keep a record of their names. This will help you if you need to make an official complaint.
Once you’ve confronted the perpetrator, if the behaviour continues you need to tell your employer. Many employers have a procedure – follow it. Your employer should investigate your complaint and deal with it. You have the right to take someone with you to any meetings about your complaint. They can back you up if necessary. Once again, keep a written record of everything that happens.
Nobody should be subjected to it. Fortunately, a variety of laws exist to protect you – If your employer does nothing you can report it to Care Quality Commission or your Local Police Station
The workplace should be a safe atmosphere, providing a place for growth and fulfillment in your chosen career. For someone who faces sexual harassment, it instead becomes a place of dread, fear and intense anxiety. It can stop you working effectively, undermines your dignity and it can affect your health and happiness. The long-term effects of this kind of unrelenting harassment include:
Anxiety and/or panic attacks
Sleeplessness and/or nightmares
Fatigue or loss of motivation
Difficulties with time (forgetting appointments)
Stomach problems – gastrointestinal disorders
Eating disorders (weight loss or gain)
Withdrawal and isolation