Harassment at Workplace
Workplace harassment is one of those women-centric issues that have the potential to negatively impact the life of a working woman. Not only does it make a serious dent in her self-respect but it also severally affects her overall well-being and productivity, which, in turn, can have negative repercussions that the entire organization has to suffer.
Women empowerment is one such area that has gained much attention in the recent years – worldwide as well as in India. The popular #MeTooIndia movement is a striking example of this social revolution. However, there are some darker mindsets that poison the very work environment for a woman.
In this article, we will discuss what workplace harassment is and what measures should be taken to stop this evil in its tracks.
What is workplace harassment?
Workplace harassment is any form of behavior at the workplace by the supervisors, co-workers or third party individuals that is offensive, derogatory, defaming or intimidating to an individual worker or a group of workers – be it male or female. Workplace harassment can be about the person’s race, religion, caste, nationality, age, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, disability, etc.
Harassment is not a new thing for a woman. It takes many forms throughout her life. Be it her home, neighborhood, school, college, or workplace; many women are subjected to derogatory remarks, demeaning comments, and unwelcome sexual overtures. This has been so prevalent in our society for so long that people – and even women themselves – hardly raised any objection against it and accepted it as part and parcel of being a woman.
With time women became more educated, independent and began to expand their comfort zones beyond their home and children. Today’s working woman is a powerful force to reckon with that is a major contributing factor in the growth of our nation. Women are performing shoulder-to-shoulder with men in every imaginable field and reaching great heights in spite of all kinds of social or gender-based discrimination and prejudices against them.
However, although many women have successfully carved their paths into a brighter, more independent and successful future; the society as a whole is bound to take some time to digest this extraordinary change and come to terms with it fully. The workplace harassment still faced by many women is an indication that the mindset of the society is still lagging behind these self-made and self-respecting women who deserve more respect and a better work environment to grow and reach their full potential as a sincere and highly productive member of their organization.
Is workplace harassment the same as sexual harassment?
Many people mistake workplace harassment to be the same as sexual harassment. However, although they are intertwined with each other; they are not the same thing. Both these terms indicate some form of unwanted behavior directed towards the victim to demean, demoralize or threaten her. However,the term workplace harassment implies any form of harassment – including sexual harassment – that happens only in a workplace setting.On the other hand, sexual harassment can take place anywhere. It can happen at a workplace as well as in a street, in a public transport, or even in the woman’s own house or neighborhood.
Following are some examples of workplace harassment:
1. Using abusive language at a woman– particularly, in public.
2. Excluding, ignoring or unduly interrupting her in a meeting or office party.
3. Making derogatory personal remarks – including her appearance, family background, sexual preferences, etc.
4. Singling her out persistently.
5. Giving her offensive nicknames.
6. Unjustified criticism about her work performance.
7. Spreading baseless rumors about her.
8. Gossiping about her.
9. Taunting her about her marital status – particularly, if single or a single mom.
10. Making demeaning remarks about any of her physical or mental disabilities.
11. Taking credit for her work or ideas.
12. Not granting her a well-deserved leave or promotion in spite of a perfectly lawful reason.
13. Making physical abuse or threatening her of physical abuse or violence.
14. Causing her physical injury, mental stress or emotional distress.
15. Causing damage to any of her property.
Following are some examples of sexual harassment:
1. Making derogatory, offensive or sexually colored comments, remarks, jokes or gestures.
2. Trying to make unwanted physical contact and making sexually driven advances.
3. Demanding or requesting sexual favors.
4. Unwanted display of sexually explicit material including pornography
5. Offensive display of sexual body parts in front of her.
How to deal with workplace harassment?
It is not easy to tackle harassment by your superiors or co-workers. It can actually become quite an exhausting ordeal for a working woman to deal with those derogatory remarks and unwelcome physical advances and still maintain her efficiency and productivity at work. However, in order to stay productive and contribute to your organization, family and society at large, you need to learn to stay grounded and take the situation as just another challenge that will make you a stronger and more independent woman in the long haul.
Confront the harassers:
If you have noticed that you are being bullied and harassed by your superiors or colleagues, then it is time to stand up for yourself. Don’t just stay silent about the abuse or misbehaving. Remaining silent often sends mixed signals to the offender.Take a strong stand and speak up about your issue to the persons who are doing it.
Let it be perfectly clear to them that you are not someone who will silently suffer all the nonsense. You are where you are due to your merit and hard work. You don’t owe anything to them to be treated like that. You deserve due respect and acknowledgement of your contribution to the company. Make this clear to them by confronting them directly and tell them how you felt due to his comment or behavior.
Talk to your superiors:
If it is your co-workers who are bullying you, then talk about it to your boss. If it is the boss himself, even then try and talk to him directly. If he is not responsive then don’t shy off from talking to someone superior to him.If necessary, take it to the HR or the managing committee or the CEO. Don’t keep on taking the abuse as it will slowly affect your physical, mental and emotional well-being. It will hamper your growth as an employee and as an individual.
If you are going to make an official complaint, then make sure that you gather enough evidences and even witnesses, if possible. This will help you back your claims about the harassment and also help you explain to the superiors who, what and how exactly it caused you trouble and how it is affecting your well-being and work performance.
Take resort to the law:
There are laws in the India constitution that will help you effectively deal with the issue of workplace harassment. The Indian Labor Laws cover a range of acts that are subject to be termed as harassment at a workplace. The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Readdress) Act, 2013, the law applies to:
- Domestic workers
- Daily wagers:- temporary or permanent
- Employees: full-time or part-time, as well as volunteers (unpaid interns too qualify under this Act)
- Women, who may or may not be employed and belong to any age group
- traditional office set-up where there is a clear employer-employee relationship,
- organizations, departments, offices, branch units etc. in the public and private sector,
- organized and unorganized, hospitals, nursing homes, educational institutions, sports institutes, stadiums, sports complexes
- any place visited by the employee arising out of or during the course of employment including transportation provided by the office
- non-traditional workplaces, which involve telecommuting