How to legally tackle Harassment at work
6 months ago
Happy New Year!!!
I got very concerned late last year when I was consulted by about 3 people separately on issues that were substantially similar relating to harassment at work by their bosses. I purposed to address the issue in my next post and here we go.
“Harassment” is not defined in any of the labour laws though there is a definition of “sexual harassment”.
What is harassment?
In the English dictionary, “Harassment” is behaviour that annoys or troubles someone (https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/harassment).
When a person is harassed, they are basically left troubled and disturbed and they suffer, mentally mostly.
Forms of harassment at work
Harassment can take the form of words, conduct, physical contact etc.
From condescending talk to insults to subtle comments to gestures to offensive language…basically, new forms of harassment are developed daily as wickedness evolves.
One person told me they were asked why they do not make an effort to talk to the boss every day.
In another case, while the employee and their boss were waiting for a client to arrive, the boss commented that they did not think they would be confirming the employee.
Another person, a man, was threatened, in front of his juniors, with being fired on 3 different occasions! His position was soon thereafter ‘declared redundant’.
Off course we all know about being shouted at in front of everyone and sexual harassment. Let’s not mention the avenues of harassment that are now available through the phone and social media!
What can you do if you feel harassed?
Complain or forever hold your peace
Most harassers have mastered the art of mental manipulation and of making the victim look like they are crazy. It is important that you document your complaint and that you take it up using the company’s grievance handling mechanisms.
According to Section 12 of the Employment Act, an organization with 50 or more employees is required to have grievance handling procedures. Smaller companies should also have such procedures as its good practice.
Genuine grievants should be assured of confidentiality and non-victimization/retaliation.
Related to the first point, as far as you can, keep a record.
Confide in someone whom you trust in the organization – they may be useful witnesses in future.
REMEMBER, a person who harasses you does not like you and is most likely looking for every means possible to get rid of you. They will use performance, redundancy or whatever other ‘lawful’ avenue they can find. To succeed in showing that your claim for unfair termination is valid, you need evidence, your words are not enough.
Secondly, you could opt to resign and claim damages for constructive dismissal. Again, it is up to you to prove that your employer made your continued employment unbearable leaving you with no choice but to leave.
What can employers do?
- Have clear policies on harassment;
- Apply the policies uniformly to all – no one is more equal;
- Train your people – you will lose good staff if you allow bullying to thrive;
- Establish an anonymous complaint system, if you must;
- Any other suggestions…???
Over the holidays I came across this Forbes article – 5 signs you are working for a good manager – I think we should measure ourselves against it.
If you are one of those people or if you work for one of those good companies who train managers or help to raise leaders, please raise your hand, include your contacts in the comments section below. We need you.
We spend a third of our lives at work, don’t be the one who makes the lives of others miserable and if you do, may you reap what you sow.
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