Sexual harassment may be described as persistent, unsolicited and unwanted sexual advances by one person to another. The code of good Practice on Sexual Harassment gives examples of conduct that may amount to sexual harassment. This ranges from physical contact, through verbal forms such as innuendoes, suggestions, hints and comments with sexual undertones, sex-related jokes or unwelcome graphic comments made in their presence or directed at them, inappropriate inquiries about a person’s sex life, unwelcome gestures, indecent exposure and the unwelcome display of sexually explicit pictures and objects.
‘Quid quo pro’ harassment occurs when a superior ‘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’. Quid pro quo harassment does not necessarily entail an explicit promise of favours. An indirect suggestion that employees might be prejudiced if they deny sexual favours is sufficient. For example a senior employee’s remark that he was the ‘final authority and that the complainant could complain to ‘no-one else’ about his conduct was found to carry a sufficiently clear innuendo to amount to quid pro quo harassment.
If disciplinary action is taken against an employee for sexual harassment, the employer must prove that the employee was guilty of that offence and hold a proper disciplinary inquiry.
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