Eric (Not real name) had recently gotten a dream job after five years of unemployment, he painted a beautiful picture of the organization and the supportive role of his female head of department who gave all the necessary support and ensured that the job was truly a dream come true.
Eric described his boss as the best boss ever, very supportive and encouraging yet strict and committed to the organization. She never entertains shoddiness nor takes anything below 100% as a good job. Eric being a relatively young man gave his all and got a recommendation for a pay rise after five months on the job.
According to Eric, “my boss is someone that operates an open door policy and gives you the opportunity to approach her on anything including personal issues that you needed advice on. She is just naturally a nice person”.
Recently, Eric became uncomfortable with his boss and sort for an independent advise from me, he said,”… some few months back, my boss called me towards the close of work to go and buy an ointment from a nearby drug store.” Quoting Eric, “When I returned with the ointment my boss rested her head on the desk and asked me to help massage her back.”
Cutting a long matter short,” this has become a regular occurrence that I am not comfortable with.”
When asked, if he had personally complained to her, he said, “I fear to lose my job” and the indignity of being out there on the street without a job and the inability to meet up with other personal and family responsibilities made it difficult for me.”
WAS THE BORDERLINE CROSSED?
Obviously, Eric does not work in a gymnasium or a spa, he was employed as an Audit Assistant, hence, the demand by his boss for him to massage her back partially dressed is an act of workplace sexual harassment, therefore, the borderline has been crossed.
BUT THEY ARE BOTH ADULTS, SO WHAT ABOUT IT?
Both are adults, it is, however, obvious that Eric’s boss had taken advantage of her position to sexually harassed Eric to submission.
SEXUAL HARASSMENT, A GLOBAL MENACE
The above scenario is what a lot of people are living with at workplace, unconscious of the negative impact of such act on productivity and by extension the nation’s Gross Domestic Product, human dignity, workers’ psychological well being and their right to demand remedy and protection.
The primary objective of this article is to x-ray workplace sexual harassment, look at the position of the Nigerian Labour Act and come up with some solutions to this ubiquitous problem that is grossly unreported and culturally cover-up in most workplaces.
WHAT IS WORKPLACE SEXUAL HARASSMENT?
To avoid ambiguity, I will adopt a number of definitions and highlights key points to bring home a commonly understood definition of sexual harassment.
“Sexual harassment means the unwanted conduct of a sexual nature or the conduct based on sex affecting the dignity of man and woman at work. This can include unwelcome physical, verbal and nonverbal conduct. Thus, a range of behaviour may be considered to constitute sexual harassment. It is unacceptable if such conduct is unwanted, unreasonable and offensive to the recipient; if a person’s rejection of, or submission to, such conduct on the part of the employers or workers ( including superiors or colleagues) is used explicitly or implicitly as a basis for a decision which affects that person’s access to vocational training or employment, continued employment, promotion, salary or any other employment decisions, and /or such conduct creates an intimidating, hostile or humiliating working environment.” European Commission Committee on the Protection of the dignity of women and men at workplace
According to Article 26, of the Italian Code of Equal Opportunities, sexual harassment is defined as “Unwanted conduct of a sexual nature expressed in any way which violates, or is intended to violate the dignity of an employee or which creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive working environment.
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