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Sexual Harrassment in the Workplace

Sexual Harrassment in the Workplace


52% of women, have experienced sexual harassment at work. As an employer, it is important to know the facts about sexual harassment in the workplace.

HR Law Easy Answers is taking action against sexual harassment in the workplace, and we are working with employers across the country to raise awareness of sexual harassment, in order to prevent it.

Below you will find five sexual harassment in the workplace 'myths', which we believe everyone in the workplace should be aware of.
Myth 1: One comment, that is not repeated cannot be sexual harassment.

Fact: Under the Equality Act 2010 - A single act can fall within the definition of unwanted conduct.

Key case: In Insitu Cleaning Co Ltd and another v Heads, the EAT upheld a tribunal’s finding that a woman had been sexually discriminated against when a manager said to her “hiya, big tits”.

The EAT held that the tribunal was entitled to conclude that the one incident was sufficiently serious to amount to sexual harassment.

Myth 2: Friendliness is a defence against a sexual harassment allegation.

Fact: The motive of the “harasser” is irrelevant in sexual harassment claims. The key issue will be the effect on the person who is on the receiving end of the behaviour.

Key case: In Craddock v Fontoura t/a Countyclean, a business owner was found to have committed harassment after he repeatedly suggested that a male employee should form a relationship with a particular female colleague.

The employment tribunal found that the business owners attempts to “play cupid” between staff constituted sexual harassment, despite his apparently benign motive.

Myth 3: A compliment cannot be considered sexual harassment.

Fact: It is sometimes commented that a man who compliments a woman on her appearance at work cannot be committing sexual harassment.

While an innocent remark between colleagues who know each other well is unlikely to constitute harassment, tribunals will look at the context in which a remark is made.

Key case: In Urbanska-Kopowska v Mcllroy and another t/a Mac's quality foods, the tribunal awarded £65,000 to a Polish woman who was sexually harassed by another worker.

Allegations included that the worker said to her that “she was his type and he would eventually have her” and that she had a “nice bottom”.

Myth 4: Sexual harassment always involves a physical act.

Fact: The definition of sexual harassment under the Equality Act is exceptionally wide.

For example, it could involve the display of pornographic material (such as pictures of naked women on a computer) or leering at a woman in a manner that is overtly sexual.

Key case: In Moonsar v Fiveways Express Transport Ltd, the EAT held that male employees viewing pornographic images on the internet in an office where a female colleague was present constituted sexual harassment.

Myth 5: Sexual harassment can be committed only by a man against a woman.

Fact: Sexual harassment is traditionally thought of as a man’s unwanted actions towards a woman. But there is nothing to stop a man claiming harassment against a woman, or an individual claiming to have been harassed by someone of the same sex.

Key case: In Basile v Royal College of General Practitioners and others, the employment tribunal held that a man discriminated against another man with sexual comments and gestures, not all of which were directed at the claimant.

These included the greeting “how’s it hanging?” and the witnessing of sexual hand gestures.

Oopyright © 2016 HR Law Easy Answers, All rights reserved.
Published on 10th October 2016
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