What is sexual harassment?
Sexual harassment has a broad definition. In law, any type of unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature (or related to your gender) that makes you feel intimidated, humiliated or degraded or creates an offensive or hostile environment is considered sexual harassment. The type of treatment can range from displays of pornographic material, unwelcome jokes or comments of a sexual nature to serious sexual assault.
What to do?
Your response will be guided by what exactly has happened. If you have been sexually assaulted then your first step may be to go to the police and seek professional or emotional support outside of your employer.
In less serious cases, your first step may be to raise the incident directly with a senior member of management or HR. Most employers will have an Equality and Diversity Policy which will offer you some direction on your next steps. This document will you offer the reassurance that your employer takes acts of discrimination very seriously and its zero tolerance to harassment. Laudable statements but – in our experience – often empty.
This is because, as we see in public life and in criminal matters, the victim has to prove the harassment occurred in the face of a culture where it is okay to lie and deny. The unwelcome sexual joke was just workplace banter and the sexual advance was misconstrued “the FD is and always has been respectful of women – he even promoted a woman in the past….”
In terms of formal action, the tribunal system has very strict time limits and any tribunal claim has to be initiated within three months of the harassment. Tribunals expect you, in most cases, to have followed some form of formal process – e.g. instituting a grievance and allowing the employer to investigate.
The steps you take following sexual harassment in the workplace will be personal to you. You do have clear options and it isn’t all bleak.
First, you must decide what you want. Can you work with the perpetrator again? Could they or you be moved elsewhere in the business? Would an apology suffice? Do you want to leave? Do you want to bring formal proceedings in the Tribunal and hold the individual(s)/Company to account?
Our Clients often come to us because they have decided they would prefer to leave employment and negotiate an exit. We explore this further below. We also support clients through the tribunal processes and for some this may be the only way as the employer will not engage in settlement or because they have concluded that the employer should answer the allegations publicly.
Everyone’s response is different and each is legitimate.
How to negotiate an exit package
The atmosphere at work may have become unbearable and your health is suffering. It may be simply a case of wanting to put traumatic events behind you and moving on. Whilst you may want to fight, you know your employer will never accept liability and you do not have the appetite, or deep pockets, for long and drawn-out court proceedings.
If this is the case, you might want to negotiate yourself an exit package or settlement deal.
Negotiating an exit package following allegations of sexual harassment is often very delicate and you may be best placed to seek specialist advice before embarking on the negotiation process. We set out below some advice on general principles.
In some cases your negotiation will start because it has become clear that your employer is not prepared to take sufficient action to deal with the complaint. In others it can be a possible tactic to open up a conversation on a without prejudice basis before making a formal complaint.
A without prejudice conversation can take a variety of forms:
· Phone call
· Face to Face conversation
In these communications you should focus on the positives – your achievements and the skills you may have developed and the mutual desire to find a means of reaching resolution. Whilst there is likely to be a need to discuss the harassment itself it is often best not to go into details, particularly if this is likely to focus attention on differences of opinion.
You should then outline what you are looking for – payment of your contractual payments as well as benefits in addition to compensation.
If there is to be an agreement, you will be asked to sign a settlement agreement that will often contain an NDA or confidentiality clause. You may have some strong feelings about this. It is likely to be open to you to agree an NDA and still be able to refer the matter to a regulator or law enforcement agency, but generally the employer will want to prevent you from discussing the circumstances leading to the termination of your employment and the terms of the settlement agreement are confidential. We would always expect this to also bind the employer and the perpetrator.
Browse recent posts
I'm speaking to my manager about the possibility of growing into a higher position on the team in the future.
I'm highly interested in this position and expressed this to my manager a month ago, asking if I could shadow one of the team members in that position to learn more. My manager stated we would review at our meeting (which is tomorrow). Thoughts?
2 Likes • 2 Comments
Has anyone gone through a vocational evaluation process where they try to determine whether you are underemployed?
If so, any tips would be highly appreciated.
1 Like • 2 Comments
I am 66 years old and work in accounting for a company that owns several residential properties nationwide.
It is a very stressful environment due to my boss being a type AA manager. She is constantly expecting us to read her mind and try and understand what she wants us to do. She does not communicate well. When she is out on vacation we never have any stress. She makes a lot of us feel inept and we can't do our jobs. I have never worked in a department where no one wants to be there (6 of us). I know there are jobs out there I am torn between applying for a new job and staying there but I feel that because of my age I won't get any responses. Any advice?
1 Like • 7 Comments
Reported sexual harassment and was subjected to intimidation tactics "Without a witness it's he said/she said" and now the cold shoulder because I refused to back down.
I no longer feel valued. PS our CEO is a woman.
2 Likes • 3 Comments
As one can see from the numberous comments, there may be legitimate reasons for the inquiry; From following company nepotism policies to maybe finding "background" or insight into this individual if she isn't precluded from hiring them.
If the latter, did you consider that she was "seeking" your counsel or opinion? That could be viewed a a compliment.
The more important question in my mind is why did this inquiry bother you? Enough so, as to post about it on social media? It may be worth your time to look inward on this topic. I am very serious. Obviously, I don't know you and therefore I don't know your history and experience. You may have been in situations that were unpleasant and left you feeling victimized? I am giving you the benefit of the doubt .... but only you can honestly answer that question.
What I do know is this is a sensitive subject for you and it is worth examining further for your own well being and growth. Consider this, even if this inquiry was motivated from some racial agenda, you will never change that by complaining to HR. If this situation was clearly racist or discrimatory you would "know it". Your position isn't being threatened by this recruiter. But how you handle could be. I am NOT suggesting that you sit down and shut up either.
In the future, I recommend when you have an emotional reaction to a situation you examine your response 1st, that you extend graces to the other people involved and assume the best possible intentions. There is absolutely no reason why you couldn't have asked the recruiter to explain her reason for asking this question. It could have been an "opportunity" for you to educate the recruiter. This might have been resolved right then.
One caution I will offer. We all tend to seek out those individuals that will support our point of view whether that be friends, family or even other co-workers. Be careful because these people will rarely be unbiased, after all they are YOUR friends, family and co-workers, and therefore cannot necessarily provide honest or accurate feedback.
I recommend in these type of situations professional guidance is a wise move. They will help you problem solve through the process and better prepare you for the future, whether that means understanding that all ppl are capable of making unintended gifts when it comes to race and culture or that this is a serious in fraction that needs reported.
0 Likes • 0 Comments
While in extensive interview rounds for two other companies, I was surprised by another opportunity this week.
I took the meeting as I need a job and wanted to give myself options but the more I spoke to HR, I could envision myself at the company.
This is the throwing me for a loop as although it's technically in the same industry, it's not an avenue I would have explored otherwise. The other companies are more aligned where I thought my career was headed but this surprising twist is making me reconsider my options.
I'm a big believer not to get ahead of myself and keep interviewing until receiving an offer but the new company is moving faster than the others. All three roles that start in January and I'm hoping that one of them leads to an offer but this twist is having me consider a new direction.