DEALING WITH THE CASES OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT
This is a post on – ‘how to deal with cases of sexual harassment – topics from the latest HRM Syllabus from CAIIB Exam 2022.
There are unfortunate times when one come across some kind of harassment & it becomes critical when it’s of sexual nature. After all, a place where we feel unsafe, is very hard to work in & today, we will discuss how the sexual harassment can be dealt with. This topic is a part of Elective paper of Certified Associate of the Indian Institute of Bankers 2022 Syllabus. So, if you are preparing for CAIIB & chosen the elective paper as HRM, then you can also read the article till end to take notes from the same.
PREVENTION AND RESPONSE TO SEXUAL HARASSMENT
It’s the employers, accommodation providers, and other responsible parties who have the ultimate responsibility for maintaining an environment free of sexual harassment. It is unacceptable from a human rights perspective to choose to remain unaware of sexual harassment regardless of whether or not a human rights claim has been made.
Organizations and institutions have to take steps to prevent and respond to human violations including sexual harassment.
Employers, accommodation providers, and other responsible parties must ensure that they maintain a poison-free environment that respects human rights. It takes dedication and work, but it’s worth it.
There is a clear human rights obligation (applies to persons who, although not the main actors, are involved in a discriminatory situation through contractual relations or in other ways) not to condone or continue an act of discrimination that has already taken place. This obligation, depending on the circumstances, employers and other responsible parties may be liable for the actions of third parties (such as customers, suppliers, etc.) who engage in sexually harassing conduct.
Human rights decision-makers often hold organizations responsible and assess damages based on an organization’s failure to respond adequately to discrimination and harassment. An organization may respond to complaints about individual incidents of discrimination or harassment, but may still be found to have failed to respond properly if the underlying problem is not addressed.
There may be a toxic environment or organizational culture that condones sexual harassment while punishing individual harassers. In these cases, organizations need to take additional steps, such as training and education, to better address the issue. An organization has a legal duty to respond to a complaint of sexual harassment and can be found liable for failing to do so, even if the complaint is ultimately not made.
Some things to consider when deciding whether an organization has met its obligation to respond to a human rights request include:
- procedures in place at the time to deal with discrimination and harassment
- the speed of the organization’s response to a complaint
- how seriously the complaint was dealt with
- available resources for complaint resolution
- whether the organization provided a healthy environment for the person who complained
- how well the action taken was communicated to the person who complained.
Sexual Harassment Policy
Organizations can go a long way towards promoting a harassment-free environment for individuals by having a clear and comprehensive policy against sexual harassment.
In cases of alleged sexual harassment, the policy will advise all parties of their rights, roles and responsibilities. The policy must clearly state how sexual harassment will be dealt with quickly and effectively.
Everyone should be aware of the existence of an anti-sexual harassment policy and steps in place to resolve complaints. This can be done as follows:
- providing policies to all once they are in place
- bring them to the attention of all employees/ tenants. students, etc. by including the policy in any orientation material
- training people, including those in positions of responsibility, on the content of policies and providing continuing education on human rights issues.
An effective sexual harassment policy can limit harm and reduce liability. It also supports the equality and diversity goals of organizations and institutions and makes good business sense.
Dealing with 3rd party Sexual Harassment
Responsible parties also need procedures for dealing with third-party sexual harassment. These procedures should show how people are expected to respond to harassment, ensure that those responsible are alerted to serious and/or persistent problems, and that those responsible take appropriate steps to assess the situation and take corrective action.
It is very important that all complaints of sexual harassment are:
- taken seriously and
- dealt with promptly,
- the complaints mechanism is in place and
- complainants are not subject to disciplinary action or retaliation.
All responsible parties should regularly monitor their environments to ensure they are free of sexually harassing behavior. Taking proactive steps to maintain a poison-free environment will help ensure that sexual harassment does not take hold and is not given the opportunity to escalate.
Hold up for a minute!
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So, what could be in the Anti-Sexual Harassment Policy?
An anti-sexual harassment policy could contain the following aspects:
- A vision statement setting out the organization’s commitment to maintaining a fair and equal environment free of sexual and gender-based harassment and stating that the organization will not tolerate sexual and gender-based harassment.
- Statement of rights and responsibilities
- List of prohibited grounds of discrimination.
- Definition of “sexual harassment” and definition of “gender-based harassment”.
- Description of unacceptable behavior such as: Examples of sexual harassment.
- A description of who the policy applies to such as employers, employees, third party service providers, etc.
How internal complaints will be dealt with, detailing:
- who to complain to
- assurance that the person handling the complaint should be independent, professional, etc.
- assistance available to complaining parties
- the availability of alternative dispute resolution, such as mediation, to resolve the complaint
- an assurance that the person making the complaint will be protected from retaliation or the threat of retaliation
- the steps that will be taken if it is not appropriate for the person making the complaint to continue working with the person(s) they are complaining about
- how the complaint will be investigated
- how long the process will take
- how the organization will deal with the complaint when the harasser is unknown (e.g. cyber harassment).
- Remedies that will be available if an allegation of sexual harassment is proven, such as:
- disciplinary measures to be applied (for example, in employment, measures can range from a verbal warning or letter of reprimand to termination of employment)
compensation to the person who filed the complaint.
- Statement strengthening the right of individuals to file other types of complaints such as:
- a human rights application under laws in force for such kinds of harassment.
- a grievance based on a collective agreement, if relevant
- criminal charges, if relevant.
In the end, employers have a duty to provide a poison-free work environment and take steps to ensure that their workplace is free of sexual harassment. Once they become aware of sexual harassment, employers must take immediate action to remedy the situation. If the employer is satisfied that harassment has occurred, it must consider both disciplinary action and other preventative steps such as training or education.
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