Sexual harassment at work is against the law…but it happens.
It makes no difference what sex you are or the sex of the person doing the harassing.
It’s unlawful and you can take action to stop it and bring a claim in a Tribunal. This is where we come in. We are employment law specialists – it’s all we do.
What is harassment?
There are three types of harassment relating to sex.
The first is when someone makes you feel humiliated, offended or degraded.
- For example, a manager makes comments that there is no point promoting women because they go off to have children. Even though he doesn’t direct these comments at a particular employee, one of the staff is very upset by this and worries about her career. This could be considered harassment.
The second type of harassment is known as ‘unwanted conduct of a sexual nature‘ and covers verbal and physical treatment, like sexual comments or jokes, touching, or assault. It also covers sending emails of a sexual nature, or putting up pornographic pictures.
- For example, a manager makes sexual jokes to a female worker and implies that she will get a pay rise if she sleeps with him.
The third type of harassment is when someone treats you unfairly because you refused to put up with sexual harassment.
- For example, a manager invites you home after going out for a drink. You decline but a couple of weeks later you are turned down for a promotion. You believe this is because you turned down your boss’s proposition.
It can also cover unfair treatment you receive even if you had previously accepted sexual conduct.
- For example, you may have had a brief relationship with your boss. After it ended, you applied for a promotion but were turned down. You believe this is because the relationship with your manager had ended.
Harassment can never be justified. However, if an organisation or employer can show it did everything it could to prevent people who work there from behaving like that, it may be hard to succeed in a claim against your employer – although you could make a claim against the person doing the harassing.
This is when you are treated badly because you have made a complaint of sex related discrimination under the Equality Act. It can also occur if you are supporting someone who has made a complaint of sex discrimination.
- For example, a male colleague is helping a female co-worker with their claim of sex discrimination and makes a statement at an Employment Tribunal. The male colleague is then sacked or treated badly by their employer. This is victimisation because of sex.
I have been harassed, what now?
You will want to know all your options before deciding what to do. This is what we are best at.
Sometimes it’s a good idea to raise a grievance with your employer – but it depends on your circumstances. You shouldn’t have to put up with being harassed and many people just want to leave work and never return. We are experienced negotiators and will try to secure you the best exit terms if this is what you want to do.
If, after going through the grievance procedure, you are not satisfied with the outcome, you could bring a claim against your employer (and possibly the person doing the harassing too) in the Employment Tribunal. Any claim in the Employment Tribunal will need to be submitted within three months less one day of the harassment act. It is now mandatory to go through the Acas Early Conciliation scheme before you can submit a claim to the Tribunal. We can help you with this too.
If you don’t want to raise a grievance and prefer to resign then we will support you.
We will always give you clear, honest advice in terms that are easy to understand. Once you have decided what outcome you want, we will go all out to get it for you.
What compensation am I entitled to?
Unlike normal unfair dismissal claims, there is no maximum amount of compensation a Tribunal can award you.
In addition to damages for any losses you have suffered – such as wages or pension, compensation normally includes an award for injury to feelings. Tribunals are guided in what to award:
- Lower band (less serious cases): £900 to £9,000
- Middle band: £9,000 to £27,000
- Upper band (the most serious cases): £27,000 to £45,000
In exceptional cases, the award will be over £45,000
You only have a limited amount of time to take action to preserve your employment rights – usually just three months (less one day) from the date you were last harassed or your employment ends.
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