Sexual harassment and the workplace

How to deal with sexual harassment at the workplace

This was the second time he came across her way as Rakhi was going for a coffee break. He pressurized her several times for lunch and dinner at times outside the office hours. His inappropriate behavior and touchy advancements were giving her goosebumps at the workplace. She was unable to focus on her work. Once, he held her hand and pulled her to a corner of the room, and tried to touch her inappropriately, when no one was around. This shockingly scared her. This is what is called sexual harassment. She stopped coming to the office the other day.

This is not the first case with any working women. Many working women, whether working in the corporate sector or working as a maid or for any small, marginal, or heavy manufacturing unit, about any industry have faced this, many times. Most of the time sexual harassment at the workplace is done by any superior or any co-worker, who is more powerful in every aspect. Sexual harassment at the workplace is not reported and hence goes unnoticed most of the time as the victim feels the threat of negative propaganda, falls prey to social stigma, is outcasted by society, intimidating uncertainty at the workplace, and fear losing the job.

Sexual harassment at the workplace

There has been a step rise in sexual harassment cases at the workplace in the past few decades. The human rights act, child and woman welfare act, child and woman protection act, and other legal dogmas were falling short of more stringent laws and protocols to protect the interest of women at the workplace. After several futile attempts and outrage by women welfare organizations and NGOs, the govt has come up with Vishakha guidelines for sexual harassment at the workplace which is again supported by the sexual harassment act.

Sexual harassment is a serious offense and punishable under the Indian penal code Sexual Harassment at the workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013. This was enacted and came Ito existence with more stringent laws to protect the dignity of the working women and to safeguard their interests at the workplace. The supreme court of India came out with Vishakha guidelines for the prevention of sexual harassment at the workplace which is again supported by the Sexual Harassment At Workplace Act. This Act is of great significance as it covers various actions and activities that fit into the bracket of Sexual Harassment at Workplace and the procedure for how a woman employ/ the victim can report about it.

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Sexual harassment in the workplace

Definition of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

This is how the Legal Dictionary describes it: “Sexual harassment in the workplace” is defined as “any unwelcome sexual activity or approaches.” When certain activities interfere with a person’s job, create an objectionable work atmosphere, or frighten the employee victim, they may be termed sexual harassment in the workplace. Making or disseminating insulting jokes, unwanted touching, or forcing someone into a personal or sexual relationship are all examples of such activities.” Sexual harassment is a punishable offence in the workplace that has a negative impact on both men and women.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 defines two forms of workplace sexual harassment:

Quid Pro Quo

Quid Pro Quo harassment occurs when a person in a position of authority, typically a supervisor, demands that employees endure sexually improper behaviour as a condition of receiving or keeping a job, or a job reward, such as increases and promotions. A single incident is all that is required for a quid pro quo allegation. For example, an employer or a higher-ranking employee may demand sexual favours in exchange for a promotion, increment, transfer, or other benefit to the employee’s advancement.

Hostile Work Environment

This refers to an undesirable, sexually oriented pattern of behaviour that is pervasive or unregulated, or is severe enough to create an offensive or harmful work environment. While a single act of quid pro quo harassment is sufficient, activities that create a hostile work environment must be regular, continuous, and/or severe. The court examines the following aspects in assessing whether a hostile work environment exists and the nature of the harassment:

  • Whether the harasser was a boss or a co-worker.
  • The frequency with which the behaviour occurs
  • Whether the behaviour was verbal, physical, or other, it was unacceptable.
  • Whether the behaviour was overtly offensive or hostile,
  • Whether the action was directed at a single victim or multiple victims
  • Whether the harassment was perpetrated by a single person or by a group of people.
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Effects Of Sexual Harassment At The Workplace On The Employee

Sexual harassment

Sexual harassment at the workplace affects an employee physically, mentally, and emotionally. This forces the employee to either leave the job or continue to work in the same unsafe environment due to financial dependency. It not only rips off the employee of her self-respect/dignity but also affects her overall well-being. Sexual harassment at the workplace affects the employee in these ways:

  • Constant fear of being falling prey to the predator
  • Fear of losing the job, salary, promotion, other financial benefits especially when the woman is the sole breadwinner, and owing to financial dependency
  • Loss of productivity
  • Loss of confidence
  • Absenteeism from work and avoidance from the perpetrator (if a co-worker or a superior)
  • Mental and emotional trauma
  • Adverse effects on professional life
  • Adverse effects on her self-esteem
  • Stress, anxiety, helplessness, depression, agony, and suicidal thoughts
  • Withdrawal from co-workers
  • Effects efficiency
  • Retaliation
  • Avoiding major meetings, seminars, etc
  • Living in guilt and shame and indulging in self-harm activities

Effects Of Sexual Harassment On The Employer Or The Company

Workplace harassment

Sexual harassment at the workplace, not only affects the employee but also the employers too. This adversely affects the company or the organization’s social status, as this can lead to blaming game, indulging in unwanted legal issues, and above all defamation. This sort of offense affects the company in many ways:

  • Fear and outrage amongst employees
  • Defamation in the market and other business communities
  • Women employees’ withdrawal from work leads to increased absenteeism
  • Low productivity at the workplace
  • Legal issues
  • Unsafe work environment causing stress, anxiety, and depression amongst employees

And many more such adversities can affect the company due to sexual harassment at the workplace

Steps To Deal With Sexual Harassment At Workplace By The Employers

Sexual harassment complaint form

The new laws and guidelines have made it mandatory for any unit (business or manufacturing unit) irrespective of the size to set up a Sexual Harassment Complaint Redressal bench at the workplace which will be headed by another woman employee. A victim can approach this bench and complain directly. And the action will be taken immediately without inquiry irrespective of the predator’s position, seniority. The woman ( the victim) will be given the required security and the desired help and support by the company.

Safety Tips For Working Women

As it is said, better be prepared and fight than to fall prey. Hence here are some safety tips for women just to be prepared and avoid such conflicting situations in the future.

  • Always maintain a distance from the person whom you feel is not safe and keep the interactions professional
  • Your dressing speaks volumes about your personality. Hence keep the dressing corporate style or professional as per the work nature
  • Trust your instincts. If you feel intimidated by any person though remotely by any chance, avoid him meeting in person out of working hours, especially alone and put up a “do not mess with me” image of yourself
  • Be vocal about if something wrong happens to you. Pushing things under the carpet will not help, but will strengthen the predator’s intensions further
  • Learn to say no if you are not comfortable with something. Be upfront about your opinion
  • Do not allow anyone to cross the boundary of behavior with you
  • Immediately report to the Sexual Harassment and Redressal bend in the office
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Sexual harassment metoo

“yatra nareesya pujyante ramante tatra devata”, is a saying in Sanskrit. This means where a woman is worshiped and honored there reside the gods and goddesses blossoms progress and happiness. But the rising number of sexual harassment cases tells a different story. And this needs to be curbed down which is possible when women employees are made aware of their rights and empowered with proper rights, help, and support by the employing organizations. The legal formalities need to be more free-flowing rather than being more stringent to help the victim go the legal way against the employer or the organization.

How Online Counseling Helps The Victim

Sexual harassment at the workplace brings a toll on the overall well-being of a worker. Such a victim needs, more emotional and mental support. Our counselors at OnlineCounseling4U are well adept at providing the best support and suggestions. One can expect utmost confidentiality and a non-judgemental approach. We will help you to deal with the situation strategically and to cope with the distress too. Feel free to call us and discuss your deepest fears with us. We are here for your help, 24 x 7, 365 days.

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