The Bad & the Ugly

Abstract:

The call for Gender Sensitivity

Main Article:

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Where do I even begin when talking about sexual harassment in workplace? Should I begin with the popular ‘The fall of the high priest’ case of the giant IT firm! Or a few other sensational scandals that hit the headlines and jolted the country in late 2012 and early 2013. Or a numerous unnoticed cases of a threatening male boss over a female subordinate or the lewd jokes from a male to a female colleague or the suggestive gesture in a room full of people or when alone...this endless list of harassment continues from the day women stepped into the work arena. In the initial days of entering the corporate world, it might pose to be a traumatic and a disturbing experience for young women. There were even several cases in India reported of suicides, mental depressions, physical and psychological traumas and in a few cases quitting the dream job, forgoing the aspirations just because of the reason that the young woman was unable to tackle the predators!

The last 10 years to be precise have seen more women entering the work force. As their numbers heave high, their vulnerability to harassment also has risen beyond what we could imagine! What we all hear, read and see through the media are criminal acts of gang rape, assault and molestation, while the so called ‘less dangerous’ forms of harassment like verbal abuse, lewd jokes or text messages, physical touching, or unpleasant comments on the appearance of a woman are given free sway because they do not qualify as criminal acts of severity or danger.

I was questioning myself each time when I get to hear such cases from working women, about the traumatic experiences they are put up with, in their workplace because of the ‘Bad and the Ugly’ harassment harnessed on her from her boss or who-so-ever the predator may be, out of his sheer authority and power. At times, am mystified when such experiences are shared by women who hold high ranks and are in profile holding the responsibility of corporate ethics in the organization and they themselves are subjugated to such harassment!

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Even such women tend to shy away from bringing the issue of the ‘bad and the ugly’ that is inflicted on them.

All these have in fact disturbed me to bring out few thoughts about such happenings and to deal with it right here right now with a strong foot in support of all working women who are/were/would be afflicted by the bad and the ugly! Enough is Enough is my better say on this.

Recognize....

Understand that workplace sexual harassment is not confined to an offi ce environment. Any misconduct outside the premise while on a work-related outing such as corporate get-togethers, business meets, corporate event, or a business trip can constitute to sexual harassment. Also you can be sure that the harassers need not necessarily be colleagues at work; they can be customers or vendors or anyone associated with your business or work.

Understand the harassment..

Quid pro quo harassment is the sexual blackmail demanding sexual favors, forcing the recipient to choose between agreeing to lewd requests or threaten with the risk of losing out on salary, promotions or even the job itself. This is an example of power play at work and an abuse of authority.

Hostile Sexual Environment is created when the behavior of lewd sexual actions, manners or pictures exhibited and the same environment is being tolerated and supported by management or co-workers.

Effects...

I have seen many of those inflicted by sexual harassment feel daunted, embarrassed, angry and at times disgraced, and find it difficult to continue working under such circumstances unable to face or tackle the situation and they take a call on quitting their job or to feel humiliated and still continue working there.

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Do you think these women can help themselves?

YES! A Bold YES is the answer. If you are victimized of such harassment, immediately let the harasser know, decisively and evidently, that his actions are undesirable and objectionable.

Thumbs UP..

1. Say NO effectively and emphatically. It is more important to be firm than polite.

2. Collect evidence – the complete details of the incident, who were present, the date and time and so on. Keep any lewd email or text messages from the harasser as evidence.

3. Alert or inform the harassment to someone whom you trust at the workplace.

4. Be sure to document your work and communications pertaining to your work in case the harasser questions your work or performance to justify their behavior.

5. Discuss in confi dence with your HR function or the concerned or, at least, another superior, and try to resolve the situation.

6. While working on the grievance procedures, provide names of people within the company who might act as your witnesses.

7. Be prepared that not all your colleagues are willing to affirm for you because of fear.

Thumbs DOWN..

1. Don’t be unclear about what unpleasantness you encounter.

2. Don’t use the words “please don’t”. Harassers will only hear the “please”.

3. Don’t be timid.

4. Be firm to say NO

5. Don’t ignore it. It is unlikely to stop if this is all you do.

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Not a MYTH:

Sexual Harassment is common in the workplace.

Sexual Harassment occurs in the boardroom

Awareness of mechanisms for redress within the Workplace is low

Industries with high levels of sexual harassment incidents - Business, Banking and fi nance, Sales and marketing, Hospitality, Civil Service, Education, lecturing

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What you must know about the recent sexual harassment law:

The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 (amended) is an act “to provide protection against sexual harassment of women at workplace and for the prevention and redressal of complaints of sexual harassment.”

A snapshot of Vishaka Guidelines (now Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act), 2013 amendment..

Only Women - The law applies to women harassed in the workplace including women working as domestic workers, daily wagers, temporary or permanent, full-time or part-time, as well as volunteers. The women may or may not be employed and can be of any age. The law is only applicable to women only.

Act - Sexual harassment includes any one or more of the following unwelcome acts or behavior: Physical contact or advances, demand or request for sexual favors, making sexually colored remarks, showing pornography, any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature, intimidating/hostile/offensive work environment Humiliating treatment likely to affect her health and safety.

Out of premise concerns - The act of harassment can occur in the workplace and also if a woman is harassed while visiting a place arising out of or during the course of employment including transportation provided by the office, a complaint can be filed under this Act.

Redress committee - The Act requires all workplaces to set up Internal Complaints Committees to address the issue of sexual harassment.

Filing a complaint - An aggrieved woman can file a complaint within 3 months of the incident (or later if allowed by the committee).

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Settlement - The Act provides the option of a settlement between the aggrieved woman and the responded through conciliation but only on the request of the woman. However, money compensation cannot be a basis for the settlement.

Inquiry - The inquiry has to be completed within 90 days.

False complaint - In case of malicious complaints or false evidence, the Committee may take action against the woman/ person.

Identity - The identity of the aggrieved woman, respondent, witnesses as well as other details of the complaint cannot be published or disclosed to the public/media.

Awareness - The Act also hopes to prevent such incidents by placing a duty on employers to hold regular workshops/awareness programs as well as, display the consequences of harassment in the workplace. Every employer has a duty to provide a safe working environment to all employees.

The Criminal Law Amendment Act has introduced section 354A which enlists the Acts which constitute the offence of sexual harassment and further prescribe penalty/punishment for such acts.

“The number of complaints of sexual harassment of women at work places registered with National Commission of Women (NCW) during the last two years and current year shows an increasing trend” Source National Commission for Women (NCW) Dec, 2014.

I have known a lot of sexual harassment cases that are not reported or that are being ignored and sidelined quoting reasons. What shocked me in few cases are the complainant herself withdrawing or hesitating to proceed with the filing!

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What do we do about this?

Let all you men consider your female colleague as one who is being a part of the workplace elements not as an object but as a human asset just as you are! It is an appeal to treat your women colleagues with utmost respect for their purpose of being there as your peer to engage in a job and to shoulder many responsibilities as you do. And not to forget that the respect that you show to your female colleagues is the respect that you get for your own self.

The Act also hopes to prevent such incidents by placing a duty on employers to hold regular workshops/ awareness programs as well as, display the consequences of harassment in the workplace. Every employer has a duty to provide a safe working environment to all employees.

And, for women, all I say is put your foot strong without fear when it comes to protecting your pride and we are not here to quit for someone else`s flaw. We are here to win over the odds. Cmon...afterall women are born with a brave heart when it comes to times of trials!


Be Safe in workplace. It’s your right to recognize, report and retort to the bad and the ugly. Act in time!


BUDDING MANAGERS

JANUARY 2015 ISSUE


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Author:  admin
Posted On:  Thursday, 22 January, 2015 - 15:54

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