Workplace Harassment Prevention: Creating a safe and respectful environment

Rolling Plans Pvt. Ltd. Dec 26, 2023 1731 0

“Zero Tolerance Against Harassment” This note with a statement can be found in every bank, corporate house, financial institution, and workplace. Along with punctual clock-ins and clean apparel as two of the most important company policies, raising a voice against harassment or sexual harassment is also compartmentalized as the strict company policy of any organization. Sexual harassment is not a new topic. It can happen to anyone, anywhere at any time. 


Excavating the definition of harassment or say sexual harassment, it is an unwelcome behavior by the depraved with the evil intention of creating an intimidating and inimical environment for the victim. As the word suggests, sexual harassment is not veritably about sex only. It is concatenated with abusive power and manipulation over the prey by the wrongful. Anyone can be harassed. Mainly women have to face lots of harassment issues such as inappropriate touching, forced copulation with bosses/supervisors due to blackmail, and many more. However, the research statistics have showcased that not only women, and men, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities are coping with sexual harassment issues. 


Sexual harassment can be categorized into various sorts. For example, 


  • pinching or inappropriately touching a coworker against his or her will 


  • supervisor posting sexually explicit jokes and messages on the office notice boards jiving their coworkers 


  • fondling staff in private stations mocking their tolerability 


  • showcasing sexual objects and private parts with mischievous intention 


  • customer intentionally touching another customer while in the queue at the banks 


These are just some examples of harassment that can take place anywhere to anyone but it can take many forms. Many research articles have exhibited the extensive suffering felt by the victims of sexual harassment resulting in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol abuse, trauma, stress, eating disorders, and other havoc that may impact the victims for the longer term. 



Workplace Sexual harassment prevention


Sexual Harassment at the Workplace Act has been adopted as the workplace policy in every institution. In the context of Nepal, Act number 7 regarding The Sexual Harassment at Workplace Prevention Act 2015/2071 explains the sexual harassment in the workplace. In Section 4 of this Act, it's mentioned that the following if committed have to be considered sexual harassment: 


i) To touch or attempt to touch any organ of the body with sexual intent 


ii) To use or display the word, picture, newspaper, audio, visual, other information technology, medium, object, or material related to obscene and sexual activity 


iii) To display or express obscene and sexual intent by writing, speaking, or gesticulating 


iv) To make an offer for sexual activity 


v) To tease or annoy with sexual intent 


Many victims face enormous challenges after they cope with such issues. They don't express their experiences or culprits’ names for fear that they themselves might face backlash due to power manipulation. Tanana Burke, an American activist and business executive propounded the Me Too Movement to publicize the experiences of sexual harassment including rape culture, sexual assault, and violence, and assist the survivors of this deadly issue. Later on, the hashtag #MeTooMovement rose to prominence in 2017 in response to the sexual abuse by American film producer, Havey Weinstein. This awareness movement opened the doors for victims to fight against the abusers and raise Voices for the punishments to the culprits. 


According to SHRM, a critical care transportation company located in San Antonio called Lone Star Abuelance had to pay $90,000 as damage compensation by settling a lawsuit filed by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). According to the website, two female employees experienced verbal sexual harassment, unwanted sexual touching, and forced submission to sex as a condition of employment by executive managers and supervisors. 


Even though there are Acts of sexual harassment in most countries of the globe, some companies examine sexual harassment complaints as something that slows them down and as an unnecessary expense, as stated by Brandy Wilson, Ph.D., a psychologist in Scottsdale, Arizona who retains a specialization in sexual harassment and workplace trauma. As mentioned earlier, the work environment for the victims has become horrendous. As the Sexual Harassment Prevention at Workplace (SH Act) has to be followed by every company, employees and leaders should know about company policies and laws regarding sexual harassment, the process of filing complaints in the course of coping with sexual harassment issues, etc. Whatever the work module of the concerned workplace is, all the workplace staff must know about the self-respect to be received and to be given to others. 



What should companies do for workplace harassment prevention to create a safe and respectful environment? 


1. Serious recognition of employees complaints 


Companies or HR departments must be thoughtful about the critical issues regarding harassment. There should be the creation of organizational norms and values clearly explaining acceptable or intolerable behavior in the organization. The organizations should host training programs inviting specialists in sexual harassment and workplace trauma to openly hear the issues of employees time and again. 



2. Formation of strategies and standards 


The company must expound strict stronger policies, action plans, and legal frameworks in the workplace considering the ILO Convention No. 190 on Violence and Harassment and Sexual Harassment Elimination Act as the key guiding standards. It should develop rules and regulations and a Code of Conduct for the implementation of harassment strategies in the workplace effectively. Bystander intervention training can also assist in expressing the issues. 



3. Use of surveys and analytics to find out the core areas of harassment 


The HR department should conduct timely surveys amongst the employees and use analytics to discover the departments or areas where the issues of sexual harassment occur. Various compliance activities should be carried out to address the people and areas where victims of the workplace are found. 



4. Assuring the employees against resignation and retaliation 


Most of the victims of the workplace who face harassment are afraid of filing complaints against the abusers due to fear of getting fired or backlashed by other coworkers. The company should ensure employees of not face job-related consequences in case of expressing the incidents against even executives and bosses as well. 



5. Ensuring multiple complaints and feedback forums within the organization 


There should be cultivation of trust among the employees that they are safer to express their victimized incidents. The “Speak-up Culture” against harassment should be flourished. They should realize that their voice matters and the culprits will get punished by hook or crook. 


There is a lacuna of plenty of research regarding training programs related to sexual harassment or harassment. A toxic work environment with no peaceful work culture at workplace lowers work productivity resulting in employee turnover and absenteeism and also impacts the company image. Hence workplace harassment prevention is not a simple task but a vague action that every company must adopt as a strict company policy.

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