How not to get sued and lose your job
Everyone knows that sexual harassment is a thing but do you know how easy it is to be accused? A simple touch on the shoulder or even a look can be considered sexual harassment.
It’s not the 60’s anymore which means you can’t smoke at your desk, you can’t keep a bottle of whisky in your desk drawer and you can’t pat your co-worker on the butt and call them ‘Hon’ because that is sexual harassment. Everyone knows that sexual harassment is a thing but do you know how easy it is to be accused? A simple touch on the shoulder or even a look can be considered sexual harassment.
If you are accused it can be costly: you can lose your job, you can be personally sued and your company can be sued too. What’s more, sexual harassment that progresses to sexual assault can rack you up several years in one of SA’s finest penitentiaries.
The first thing you need to be aware of is that sexual harassment isn’t just a thing that male bosses do to their female employees. Women can sexually harass men. People of the same gender can sexually harass each other. A person can sexually harass their boss. And it’s easy to do. By definition sexual harassment can include:
- Any physical contact – from the mere touch of a shoulder to a tap on the butt, pulling in for a kiss, stripping or intimate relations
- Any verbal advances – from comments with sexual overtones to jokes with sexual innuendos and especially comments made about a person, their body or looks
- Any non-verbal, non-physical sexually-charged behaviour – from showing/sending colleagues sexually explicit pictures to any indecent exposure
- Any attempts to exploit a position of power in exchange for sexual favours – from offering to increase a salary, to dismissal or promotion as a result of the extortion of sexual acts of any kind.
You might be thinking that you may have sexually harassed someone already and you might be right. It’s all about interpretation. What you might think is a witty comment could easily be interpreted by someone else as vulgar and demeaning.
Luckily sexual harassment is easily avoided: just don’t do it. Start being more thoughtful about what you say and do, as the penalties can be dire. Sexual harassment can be a fireable offence, plus you and your company could be sued for millions. A case in point is the former Fox News anchor, Gretchen Carlson, whose lawsuit against her former boss resulted in Fox forking out a $20m settlement.
Most sizeable companies have corporate insurance that covers them in the event of legal settlements. But what about legal protection for you as an individual? We suggest that everyone should have legal insurance. And if you run or own a small company you should certainly have legal insurance for your business.