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Dealing with Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

The New York Times expose’ concerning American film producer Harvey Weinstein and sexual harassment allegations has sparked important discussions on both sides of ‘The Pond’. 

The social media movement #MeToo has inspired our friends, family, and colleagues to share posts concerning sexual harassment they have experienced in the workplace, unfortunately it seems like one too many women, in all walks of life, have experienced something unpleasant relating to their gender. 

So what lessons can businesses learn when they are faced with allegations of sexual harassment? 

What is sexual harassment?

Under the Equality Act 2010 (EQA), sexual harassment is defined as being unwanted conduct which has the purpose or effect of violating someone’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the victim. 

If you’re questioning what then falls within this category, the simple answer, is any unwanted conduct which falls within the definition could amount to sexual harassment and this includes text messages, propositions and gestures.

Whilst, in the case of Weinstein, the sexual harassment came from a person in a position of power (causing many of the woman to fear career-loss and blacklisting should they take action), sexual harassment in the workplace is not limited to instances involving power-imbalance. 

How to deal with complaints?

When a complaint or allegations of sexual assault or harassment are raised ensure that the following steps are followed to stay on the right side of the law: 

1. Follow the internal grievance procedure. 

2. Deal with the complainant in a sensitive manner, do not disregard the complaints. 

3. Ask the complainant to detail the incidents i.e. who was the perpetrator, when did the incidents happen, were there any witnesses, this will ensure that a thorough investigation takes place. 

4. Interview any identified witnesses

5. Provide a detailed written grievance outcome. Ensure that the process is conducted without undue delay. 

6. Uphold any grievances that have any merit.

7. Consider disciplinary action against any alleged perpetrator.  

If you have any queries about sexual harassment, implementing policies, conducting investigations or litigation, please contact me on 01133 50 40 30 or at hello@scesolicitors.co.uk.

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SCE Solicitors is a boutique employment law and dispute resolution practice based in Leeds which advises clients nationwide.  Please note that the information in this blog is to provide information of general interest in a summary manner and should not be construed as individual legal advice. Readers should consult with SCE Solicitors or other professional counsel before acting on the information contained here.

Samira Cakali

Samira Cakali is a pragmatic and approachable solicitor advocate with extensive contentious and non-contentious experience in the fields of employment law as well as civil litigation, within a range of commercial businesses from SME’s to multinationals as well as senior executives.

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