Sexual harassment in the workplace

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The Labour Code defines sexual harassment in the workplace as discriminatory conduct based on gender. It involves any unwelcome actions of a sexual nature or related to gender that violate the employee’s dignity. These actions can be physical, verbal, or non-verbal. Both superiors and colleagues can be responsible for such behavior.

Harassment is any unwelcome behavior that makes someone feel bad, degraded, or threatened at work. It can be because of reasons like gender, age, disability, race, religion, nationality, political views, and other personal aspects. It can also happen whether you’re working full-time, part-time, or on a temporary contract.

Sexual harassment is specific unwanted behavior that’s connected to a person’s gender or has a sexual nature. This can be anything like:

  • Trying to exchange job perks for sexual favors.
  • Making inappropriate sexual comments or jokes.
  • Sharing or showing or sending via message explicit pictures or videos.
  • Sexual gestures like touching, hugging, or stroking.
  • Using suggestive language.
  • Making direct sexual proposals.

Sexual harassment isn’t just about non-consensual actions, but also the fear that objecting could harm the victim’s employment conditions or workplace relationships. It’s important to note that facing harassment or protecting oneself from it should not result in negative consequences for the employee.

Legal bases for addressing sexual harassment:

Labor Code:

  • Article 111 emphasizes employer’s duty to respect employee dignity and rights, as sexual harassment undermines human dignity.
  • Articles 112 and 113 address equal treatment and prohibition of discrimination in employment, including harassment based on gender.
  • Articles 15 and 94 emphasize the employer’s obligation to provide safe conditions and take action against unlawful sexual conduct.

Civil Code:

  • Articles 23 and 24 focus on perpetrator liability for harassment, protecting values like dignity and freedom.

If you’ve experienced sexual harassment at work, you can seek compensation, cessation of harmful actions, or removal of their effects through civil claims.

Criminal Code:

  • Some actions constituting sexual harassment are also crimes under the Criminal Code, like coercion into sexual activity or abuse of a dependent relationship.

It’s important to remember that employers are responsible for preventing discrimination. Perpetrators are accountable for their actions, while employers are accountable for not preventing or contributing to harassment.

Seeking legal redress:

  • Under the Labour Code, an employee facing employer violation of equal treatment has the right to compensation. The court assesses the discriminatory action’s type and intensity, with no upper compensation limit.
  • The court analyzes harassment objectively, focusing on its purpose or effect. Employee evidence must substantiate discrimination. Once an accusation is plausible, the employer needs to prove harassment didn’t occur. A clear expression of disapproval from the harassed person is vital.
  • Employers should take appropriate steps to prevent gender-based discrimination, such as responding promptly to complaints and implementing anti-discrimination policies.

Sadly, in the court case you need to prove you objected to harassent. You can do that by telling the perpetrator to stop or even just avoid them,

If you can prove that the harassment happened and that you objected, it’s the employer’s job to prove that it didn’t happen, which is a bit different. In simple terms, if an employee raises an issue about sexual harassment, the company has to show they’re in the clear.

Addressing sexual harassment involves both legal provisions and an organizational commitment to ensure a safe and respectful workplace for all employees.

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