Sexual Harassment in the workplace and schools

Sexual Harassment in the workplace and schools

By: Reston Jena (LLB) – University of Fort Hare (Lawyer at  SIPETO MDUBA ATTORNEYS offices in BETHAL (078 684 9728 or 017 647 1338)


Being the good citizen that l am, one day on my way from the Middleburg court, l found myself offering transport to a lady who was standing by a hiking spot on her way to Bethal. Five minutes into the journey, we were chatting gaily about the unpredictable weather when the lady received a message on her phone. Through the rear view mirror l saw her throwing the phone on the vacant seat and her face threatened to go up side down in tears. Sympathetic enquiries from me and my colleague showed that this lady was employed at a local engineering firm as a welder but for the eight odd months that she had been with this company, she was continually subjected to nude and partially nude pictures posted by her male co-workers in common areas, through Bluetooth and in places where she would have to encounter them, including her tools box. The men referred to Philisiwe(not her real name) as “baby,” “sugar,” “momma,” and “sweety.” In addition, the men wrote obscene words directed at the victim all over the plant. The men also made numerous suggestive and offensive remarks to the victim concerning her body and the pictures of a voluptuous black lady posted on the walls. She had had lodged complaints about this atmosphere of harassment on a number of occasions, but the company’s supervisory personnel provided little or no assistance and this was putting a strain on her marriage. Quitting the job was not an option because she was the bread winner but these happenings at the work place were also draining her emotionally and psychologically.

Sexual harassment in schools or in workplaces has become so unbridled and is now perceived in the eyes of many victims (who choose to remain aloof) and harassers (who find contentment in it) as a conduct not contrary to the legal convictions of the community. Yet the conduct is not just contra bones mores (illegal) but it undermines the ability to work and has a negative impact on production resulting in undesired consequences. Sexual harassment is an entirely deplorable conduct which undermines the magnitude of esteem needs (need for status, recognition and self-respect). The legal position in South Africa is that employees are afforded the right to equal treatment, privacy and the all-encompassing right which is the right to dignity. Both the revered Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, which is the supreme law of the land and the current labour legislation, protects the employees

But what is sexual harassment?

Conduct which can constitute sexual harassment ranges from innuendo(a derogatory suggestion about a person or a thing with the intention to insult), inappropriate gestures, suggestions or hints or fondling without consent or by force in its worst form, namely rape.

Forms of sexual harassment, inter alia, are:

repeated requests for dates that are turned down, or unwanted flirting,  posting e-mails or pictures of a sexual or degrading nature, displaying sexually suggestive objects, pictures, indecent exposure, fondling, sexual assault and rape, strip search by or in the presence of the opposite sex, unwelcome innuendoes, sex-related jokes or insults or unwelcome graphic comments about a person’s body made in their presence or directed toward them,  unwelcome and inappropriate enquiries about a person’s sex life, Unwelcome whistling directed at a person or group of persons.

Quid pro quo harassment occurs where an owner, employer, supervisor, member of management or co-employee, undertakes or attempts to influence the process of employment, promotion, training, discipline, dismissal, salary increment or other benefit of an employee or job applicant, in exchange for sexual favours.

Another form of sexual harassment is sexual favouritism. This, as is indicated in the Code of Good Practice, exists where a person who is in a position of authority rewards only those who respond to his/her sexual advances, whilst other deserving employees who do not submit themselves to any sexual advances are denied promotions, merit rating or salary increases.

It is crystal clear that a number of human rights entrenched in the Constitution of the Republic are infringed in the conduct of sexual harassment. In a chain of case law it has been reiterated that Constitutional rights which accrue to the citizens and residents of the Republic, which include but not limited to right to privacy, right to freedom and security, dignity are violated every time an employee is sexually harassed. The Constitution protects all people from any form of sexual harassment by affording them rights. The current labour legislation plays a pivotal role in protecting employees from sexual harassment. The Employment Equity Act prohibits discrimination in the workplace, either directly or indirectly.

Sexual attention becomes sexual harassment if the recipient or victim has made it clear to the harasser that the behavior is unacceptable, or if the perpetrator should have known that the behavior is unacceptable and if the behavior is persistent although a single act would result in sexual harassment. Two tests are used by the courts to prove sexual harassment, the subjective test and the objective test. The subjective test would be whether the victim found the sexual attention unwelcome, that is whether or not the behavior was sexual harassment in the eyes of the complaint and the effect that it has on her. The objective test is where the surrounding circumstances of the case are considered and then decide whether a reasonable person would consider such conduct as sexual harassment.

Victims of sexual harassment are advised to file a grievance with their supervisors, approach the CCMA but the best would be to get expert advice from an attorney who specializes in employment issues. Victims should confront the harassers. The victims should not delay reporting the incident and should have a detailed report of the incident so that they would be able to respond to the Who, When, Why, What and the How questions. Do not hesitate.

RASTON JENA (LLB DEGREE)

Legal advisor at  SIPETO MDUBA ATTORNEYS with offices in BETHAL (078 684 9728 or 017 647 1263)

A Committed Leader

A Committed Leader

Readings, Nehemiah: (1: 4-23)

By: Pastor Stanley Mutiza (The Well of Life Ministries in Bethal)

Nehemiah had faith, though he had never been to Jerusalem, but he heard from his elders as to how the city of God looks.

He also heard what God had done for his people, Israelites. When he had that the wall of Jerusalem lied in ruin and that the gates had been burned he was deeply depressed. Before taking any action he prayed and fasted (Neh. 1:4).

Why did he pray?

Prayer internalises the burden. Prayer insists that we quiet our hearts and wait, slowing us down to receive from God. Prayer infuses the vision, enabling us to see what God wants to do. Prayer initiates the vision’s fulfilment, acting as a catalyst for us to act.

Nehemiah then went to speak to King Artaxexes because he prayed and God had softened the king’s heart, so Nehemiah was sent to Judah. Nehemiah could tell the king his exact plan of action. 52 days to rebuild the walls.

Nehemiah’s commitment

Nehemiah spent time in prayer he knew what need to be done (letters to governors, timber from Asphat). He had an exact time frame. He knew the key influences to approach, such as the Persian King Artexexes.

He assessed the situation and said first-hand the challenges facing him. He met with some people to get a buy in from them (priests, nobles, Jews, officials and people who did the work. He described his vision for rebuilding the wall and the spiritual ramification of the project (Neh 2, 16-17).

He organised the people and get them working. He never lost focus of the work at hand.

What was Nehemiah secret for success?

Nehemiah relied on God. He respected the opposite. He reinforced his weak point. He re-assured the people. He refused to quit. He renewed the people’s strength continually (Nehemiah 4, 4-23).

What can we learn from Nehemiah?

The power of compelling purpose.  The power of prayer.  The power of persistence. The power of commitment. The power of faith in people you are with.

Queue Management and Managing Expectations

Queue Management and Managing Expectations

By Leeash Rooifontein

Service is not consumed, it is experienced. Service means a lot in all business and how we offer it makes the ultimate differentiator and I’ve experienced this first hand during the course of my career.

The one problem I often wondered about the most is why some people where so apprehensive with the prospect of standing in a queue, which in my opinion accounts for at least one third of the service experience in any business.

Especially in the context of South Africa, were we not the ones that showed the world how patient we were in 1994 during election time? And yet clients, at least in my experience, sometimes snapped or argued or felt offended to stand in the line at the end of the month, let alone just turning away from a queue. I’ve always found myself compelled to do something about it.

I found an article written by Alex Stone in opinion column in the New York Times in which he explains events that took place in an airport in Houston. The clients had been complaining about waiting at the baggage claim, although most if not all the clients waited within the appropriate time frames.

The executives in response increased the amount of baggage handlers which decreased the amount of time in waiting to well below industry averages, however complaints persisted. Upon further careful inspection the executives found that up to 88 % of the client’s time, even with improvements, was spent waiting and standing around doing nothing in anticipation for their baggage.

The airport decided on a new approach. They moved the baggage terminal to the other side of the airport which took the passengers longer on average to get to the baggage counter while the clients themselves perceived themselves to be busy and it gave more time for the baggage handlers. The strategy was a success, the complaints dropped almost down to zero.

The conclusion I immediately took from the story is that is not the actually time that the client spends in the queue, but the perception of how long or even the quality of the experience the client waits in the queue. I saw that is almost useless to count the physical minutes any client waits but to consider how the client feels while waiting and that feeling is almost always objective.

I decided to do research on how people, particularly in South Africa, feel and perceive being in a queue. I quickly realised that this is aspect of our lives that most companies neglected and most people shrugged away.

I soon found that queuing and psychology behind queuing was an aspect that affected our everyday lives in more ways that most can imagine. Think about it? We experience them in supermarkets, in banks, at the hospitals and pharmacies, in all government institutions, at traffic intersections, on the phone with call centres and on the internet.

Not to mention all the other abstract ways we can’t even being to possibly comprehend, like waiting to meet the love of your life.

This thinking and the abovementioned article led me to Dr David Maister and an article, psychology of waiting lines, in which he explains the pillar or what today has commonly known as the tenets of queuing. These tenets are as follows

  • Unoccupied time feels longer than occupied time.
  • A pre-process wait feels longer than an in-process wait.
  • Anxiety makes a wait seem longer.
  • An uncertain wait feels longer than a known finite wait.
  • An unexplained wait feels longer than an explained wait.
  • An unfair wait feels longer than a fair wait.

Perception, managing expectations and how the customer does feel while or before being serviced matters. According to David Maister, customers over exaggerate by at least three times every minute spent while waiting if unattended or not knowing when they will be assisted.

It is important to close the gap between when the client walks through your door (service inception) and actual interaction with the customer representative (service closure). It is important that we decide to change our mind-set when it comes to matter like queuing. Queue management is simply the art of managing expectations and managing expectation is the art of managing promises

See Better, Do Better

See Better, Do Better

by Gugu Ndlovu

Every time I get an opportunity to communicate with young people, I make it a point to emphasize the importance of having good eye sight. Not necessarily that of the natural eye but that of the mind. Having a vision.

I always go for this because I’ve come to understand that lack thereof is what leads one into a reckless lifestyle.

No one willingly surrenders their life to excessive drinking, promiscuity or drug abuse unless they are blinded towards their something; their future. ‘YOLO’ (you only live once) is a principle the young have adopted without question. I’m still to find someone who uses this phrase to achieve good, it always seems to come up when we’re justifying our deeds of blindness. I agree that we humans are no match to the legendary cats with their nine lives, but why not use the one life you do have to achieve something instead of destroying what you already have?

I take interest in the goals and aspirations of young people I encounter because they grant me the opportunity to impact their today using their tomorrow. Once I can get you to see yourself as that attorney, that nurse, that CEO; I then challenge you to weigh your habits and decisions in light of this ‘vision’. Many then realize that their habits and attitudes will delay, if not stop them in achieving their goals. Because it will definitely be harder to complete high school with a baby in your lap, a few more years and rands to bag that degree if every weekend is given to clubbing.

The trick with some is getting them to believe that they worth what they’re tempted to envision. Some come from backgrounds that make it near impossible to even imagine making it in life. Poverty has such a strong hold on them that out of frustration they are lead into habits that dig them deeper into the pits of lack. Others have been victims of sexual abuse from a young age and do not know a life other than being an object for sexual pleasure. The matter intensifies when they realize they can make a living through what once victimized them, why not when I’ve been through what I’ve been through?

Others have just made so many mistakes that their vision has blurred. They once dreamed, but their dreams have slowly diminished over the years.

Sure, such things have the potential to ruin life for you, but not if you don’t give them the chance to. You have a tenacity in you that can outlast every single obstacle that comes your way, you just don’t know it yet. I’m certain Joseph didn’t know it either when he was cuddled in the cushion if his father’s love. He probably thought it would be an easy climb up the ladder of success at that point, little did he know about the strength of his brothers’ jealousy.

He was snatched from his father’s lap to slavery. I can imagine that Joseph didn’t have to do any hard labor at home being the beloved last born and all, so he was probably less likely to survive slavery compared to his other brothers. But the problem here was who slavery was messing with, a spoilt seventeen year old, yes, but a spoilt boy who had one heck of a vision. And that’s what saw him through the pits, the slavery, and prison and landed him a royal seat in the palace.

He didn’t ask or volunteer for any of the things that happened to him, but he also didn’t use them as an excuse to not aim for better. In fact his father’s love and mother’s support couldn’t protect him when life happened. There was literally no one to draw strength from, he had to draw strength from the One who gave him the eyes to see what he had seen. He’s now one of the most popular Bible characters simply because he had a dream and wouldn’t let anything, even himself (read about his encounter with Potiphar’s wife in Genesis 39) stop him from realizing it.

So we are without excuse. God is both able and willing to give us what we see, only if we see it. So dare to dream, it is only those with sight that will escape the calamity that has befallen our generation .