Sexual harassment in the workplace is prohibited under the labour laws of South Africa.
The Code of Good Practice on the Handling of Sexual Harassment Cases in the Workplace defines sexual harassment as “unwanted conduct of a sexual nature that violates the rights of an employee and constitutes a barrier to equity in the workplace”. In terms of this Code, sexual harassment may include physical conduct, verbal conduct and non-verbal conduct. This Code is not legally binding, but it provides useful guidance in the manner in which an employer should deal with allegations of sexual harassment, and encourages the development and implementation of policies and procedures to prevent sexual discrimination.
Sexual harassment is any unwanted attention of a sexual nature that takes place in the workplace.
This is any kind of sexual behaviour that makes you feel uncomfortable, including:
* Unwelcome sexual jokes.
* Unwanted questions about your sex life.
* Rude gestures.
* Requests for sex
* Staring at your body in an offensive way.
An employer may dismiss a perpetrator in some circumstances. Victims may resort to civil action and criminal prosecution, which allow tougher punishments for harassers. Harassment of a worker is a form of unfair discrimination. Sexual harassment is also prohibited under the Protection from Harassment Act No. 17 of 2011.
The Employment Equity Act provides that if it is alleged that a worker has contravened a provision of the EEA by, for example, harassing another worker and the employer fails to take the necessary steps to deal with the allegations of sexual harassment, the employer is deemed also to have contravened the EEA. The section 60(3) of EEA effectively holds an employer vicariously liable for the unlawful, discriminatory conduct of its workers.
Source: §60(3) of the Employment Equity Act 1998; The Code of Good Practice on the Handling of Sexual Harassment Cases in the Workplace; Protection from Harassment Act No. 17 of 2011