Employment Law

Employment Law

Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

What is sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment has a specific definition in the Equality Act 2010. Somebody will be guilty of sexual harassment if he or she engages in unwanted conduct of a sexual nature with you, which has the purpose or effect of either:

(a)    Violating your dignity, or

(b)   Creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for you.

In deciding whether the conduct does do this you must take into account:

  • Your perception of how it made you feel – (so how you actually felt)
  • The other circumstances of the case
  • Whether it was reasonable for the conduct to have that effect on you.

There is also second strand of harassment which comes about if you reject, or submit to, this sort of conduct when, because of that rejection of or submission you are  treated less favourably than you would have been treated if you had not rejected or submitted to the conduct. 

Examples of sexual harassment

The following could all amount to sexual harassment: 

  • Sexual teasing
  • Jokes
  • Sexual looks and gestures
  • Touching
  • Sexual innuendoes or stories
  • Sexual favouritism
  • Pressure for dates or sexual favours
  • Presents or gifts
  • Sexually suggestive or explicit Text messages or emails
  • Spreading rumours about sexuality 

This is not an exhaustive list – there are many things which could amount to sexual harassment.

What should you do?

Every employer should have in place a written Anti Harassment and Grievance policies so that everyone in the workplace knows what is and is not acceptable behaviour and so that employees know exactly what to do if they are subjected to sexual harassment at work. 

You should complain about incidents of sexual nature so that you employer can investigate what has happened and take appropriate action.

If you are subject to sexual harassment at work may be able to claim constructive dismissal and bring a claim to an Employment Tribunal.

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