Unfortunately, harassment can take place in any place of work and one type of harassment that is not as openly spoken about is sexual harassment. Section 26 of The Equality Act 2010 defines harassment as ‘unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic that has the purpose or effect of violating someone’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that person’. It also states that harassment is engaging in unwanted conduct of a sexual nature and this is what is now referred to as sexual harassment.
What falls under the term ‘sexual harassment’?
It is important for all employees to know what can be classified as sexual harassment and it does not always fall into the stereotypical assumptions made by people. This type of harassment can be verbal, non-verbal or physical conduct such as sexual jokes, unwelcome sexual advances, inappropriate touching or displaying pornographic photographs or drawings.
All employees should be aware that an action can be classed as sexual harassment even if the person did not mean for it to be. What someone might call a joke can still be classified as sexual harassment if the behaviour is of a sexual nature and is unwanted. Ultimately, it is the effect of the behaviour that matters in this regard.
Who can experience sexual harassment at work?
In short, this type of harassment can happen to men, women and people of any gender. It can also be carried out by any one of the same sex, opposite sex or anyone of any gender identity. Many employees are unaware that they can experience sexual harassment at work from anyone they come into contact with because of their job and it is not always a colleague. It could also be a customer, contractor, client or member of the public.
Who is responsible for sexual harassment at work?
As expected, people are responsible for their own actions and anyone who sexually harasses another person in the workplace will be held accountable. However, employers can also be held responsible too, this is called ‘vicarious liability’. It is an employers responsibility to make sure that all of their employees are protected from sexual harassment whilst at work.
What are employees rights regarding sexual harassment at work?
If an employee believes that they are experiencing sexual harassment at work then they should raise the issue with their employer. When making a complaint of this kind, an employer should always take it very seriously and go on to handle the situation both fairly and sensitively. Employees can always look at their workplace’s policy on discrimination and harassment for further advice on how to proceed in this matter too.
If an employee feels as though their issues regarding sexual harassment at work have not been resolved, then they also have the option to make a claim to an employment tribunal. If they wish to do this then it is worthwhile seeking legal advice from an employment law specialist who will be able to assist them further with their claim.
All employees should know that it is against the law and they are protected under the Equality Act if they are treated less favourably because of their reaction to sexual harassment too. The Act also classes this as harassment and employees can rest assured knowing that they will be protected whether they reject or submit to the harassment. Sometimes, it is not always the person who sexually harassed them that goes on to treat them less favourably and everyone responsible will be held accountable for their own actions.
How Nationwide Employment Lawyers can help
Here at Nationwide Employment Lawyers, we are able to assist any employees if they wish to go ahead and make a sexual harassment claim at the employment tribunal. We have the knowledge and experience required to assist employees throughout the whole process when making a claim and we always have the employees best interests in mind.
So, if you find yourself in a situation where you have experienced sexual harassment at work and you need help, please do not hesitate to reach out to our team today. You can call us directly on 020 8263 6080 and we will do all we can to assist you straight away.