Don’t Be a Victim: Protect Yourself from Workplace Harassment

Harassment in the Workplace

The workplace should be a place of productivity and collaboration, not fear and humiliation. Unfortunately, many people experience harassment on the job, impacting their well-being and performance. Here’s what you need to know about harassment in the South African workplace and how to protect yourself.

Understanding Harassment:

The Employment Equity Act (EEA) defines harassment as a form of unfair discrimination. It can include not just sexual harassment, but also:

  • Passive-aggressive behaviour: This involves indirect hostility, like subtle put-downs or deliberate exclusion.
  • Bullying: This is repeated, unreasonable behaviour intended to intimidate, humiliate, or control someone.
  • Ostracizing: Intentionally excluding someone from social interactions or work activities.
  • Cyberbullying: Using technology to bully or harass someone online or through work channels.
  • Career sabotage: Deliberately hindering someone’s professional development or opportunities.
  • Racist, sexist, or LGBTQIA+-phobic rhetoric: Hate speech and discriminatory language.

What’s Changed?

Recently, the Code of Good Practice on the Prevention and Elimination of Harassment in the Workplace has been updated. This means:

  • Broader Scope: The code now encompasses a wider range of harassing behaviours, protecting employees from a more diverse spectrum of abuse.
  • Formal and Informal Options: Victims can choose a formal grievance process or a more informal approach to address the issue.
  • Employer Responsibility: Companies have a stronger obligation to prevent harassment. This includes:
    • Zero-Tolerance Policy: Having a clear stance against harassment and enforcing it consistently.
    • Workplace Education: Providing employees with training and resources to recognize and report harassment.
    • Investigation and Action: Promptly investigating reported incidents and taking appropriate disciplinary action.

What if I experience Harassment?

  • Speak Up: Don’t suffer in silence. Report the incident to your supervisor, HR department, or another trusted person within your company.
  • Document Everything: Keep a record of dates, times, and details of the harassing behaviour. This can be vital evidence.
  • Seek Support: Talk to a friend, family member, or a trusted colleague. There are also support organisations available to help victims of workplace harassment.

Employers Must Act:

Employers have a legal responsibility to provide a safe working environment free from harassment. This means taking complaints seriously, conducting thorough investigations, and taking disciplinary action against harassers. Failing to address these issues could result in the employer being held liable for damages.

Don’t Let It Happen to You!

The updated Code of Good Practice is a positive step towards creating safer workplaces in South Africa. However, both employees and employers need to understand their rights and responsibilities.

By speaking up if you experience harassment and companies upholding their zero-tolerance policies, we can work towards a workplace culture of respect and dignity for all.

Need Help?

If you’re experiencing harassment at work, it’s crucial to seek legal advice. At BBP Law Attorneys, we understand the emotional and legal complexities of such situations. Contact us today for a consultation and let us help you navigate your options.

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