Dealing with sexualized harassment
Sexual harassment in the workplace
A survey conducted by the German Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency in 2015 established that every second person surveyed in Germany had experienced sexualized harassment at work. The majority of those affected were women, but men as well as trans and intersex people were also affected. Sexualized harassment affects working people of all ages and is independent of professional position and industry. It starts where very personal boundaries are crossed for those affected. It is not a question of whether this is intentional but rather a matter of what effect it has on the person being harassed. Those affected are never themselves to blame.
According to the German General Act on Equal Treatment, sexual harassment is “unwanted conduct of a sexual nature, including unwanted sexual acts and requests to carry out sexual acts, physical conduct of a sexual nature, comments of a sexual nature, as well as the unwanted showing or public exhibition of pornographic images … with the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of the person concerned, in particular where it creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment”.
Employers are therefore legally obligated to protect their employees from sexual harassment, to take appropriate measures against it, such as setting up a complaints office, and to investigate every complaint. Works and service agreements create a binding framework and ensure transparency and certainty of action for those responsible for dealing with these matters.
What you as a manager should know about sexual harassment in the workplace
Managers play a key role in addressing the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace, not only as role models but especially in exercising their duty of care. They should be particularly aware when dealing with the issue, be familiar with the legal and company-related framework conditions and know how to deal with members of staff should a situation arise and how to provide confident support.