SEXUAL HARASSMENT & YOUR WORKPLACE
India's New Law, USA Law & personal reflections
I remember how it was several years ago when I worked at the radio station as a Music Director during college. In the later 1970's & 1980's, many women were training for broadcasting careers. Our radio station had about ten women on staff or who were receiving training for public radio broadcasting careers. A man who was part of the team was coming on to me. I had a feeling he was bothering other women, so I asked other women at the station if they had experienced the same kind of problem with him. Every one of the women had encountered his sexual harassment. One of my male co-workers said that he had even made a pass at him, too. The general manager found out about what he was doing to his fellow co-workers. After we reported it none of us had problems with him. I do think that there is strength in numbers.
Several years later I was working at a music company in various positions. One of my female co-workers complained about an older male pinching her. I suggested she ask other women to see if they had problems with him. It turned out two women had experienced the same thing problem with him.Then I suggested they meet with our manager because he would take it more seriously if more than one woman experienced the same problem with him. They met with him and the man stopped his pinching of the single women.
Not all people have good managers and supervisors. Sometimes the supervisor can be the problem. Recently India passed a new law on sexual harassment in the workplace. The USA has had laws in place for a number of years. Sexual harassment is considered a "form of discrimination, a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964."
The Huffington Post surveyed 1,000 adults in August of this year on the topic. Nineteen percent had been harassed by a co-worker or supervisor. Seventy percent of those who had been harassed never reported it. Many were afraid of the harasser or afraid they would lose their jobs for reporting it. It is illegal to fire someone because they have reported being sexually harassed by a co-worker or supervisor. You can initiate a law suit if this happens. Some do not report it because they feel they will be blamed for the harassment. Twenty-one percent said they saw a co-worker being harassed. Only 33% of this group reported it to a supervisor or human resources representative. Many companies have training and education on the topic. Recently I took a class on the topic in my workplace.
It is best to put your complaint in writing. You can contact your supervisor or a human resources representative. Many companies have policies on the topic. Your supervisor or human resource representative will fill you in on the process. You can also go to someone who supervises your supervisor if your supervisor is the problem. Reporting is the first step in the process. Many times what happens is the supervisor or human resources representative meets with the individuals involved to resolve the matter. Sometimes it is necessary to consult a lawyer in order to initiate a law suit. You have to go through your employer first and make a good faith effort to resolve it. Often this is good enough, but sometimes a law suit is the only way to stop the behavior of the harasser or get justice. You have a stronger case when there is a pervasive pattern by the individual of harassment of yourself or others. A single or isolated incidents are generally not considered a pervasive pattern by the courts.
During the week of December 14, 2013, India's parliament and president passed a new law on sexual harassment in the workplace. The name of the law is the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition & Redressal) Act of 2013. In the USA the laws cover all genders, but most harassment is between men and women where the man is the harasser. The next most common situation is where males harass their own gender. There are cases of women harassing men, but the percentage is very low compared with the first two categories I mentioned. About a third of women reported harassment compared with 6% of the men.
Because the law in India is very new, the Union Minister for Women & Child Development, Krishna Tirath, is writing to state governments to institute local complaint committees. The district officer will be in charge of setting up a process for complaints.
Many recall the brutal rape of the young woman in front of her male friend last year in India. She died from this terrible act. A female journalist was sexually assaulted by her boss at the Tehelka, who is the editor-in-chief. He denied the whole incident. There are also now more women working outside the home in India in IT, banking, retail, service and health care positions. What often happens in India is that the family ignores her or tells the woman to stop talking about it. So cover up of this kind of behavior is so engrained in their society. Rama Lakshmi, an Indian journalist for the World says, "Awareness about workplace sexual harassment is relatively new in India, where men in powerful positions routinely make passes at their female subordinates, grope them and crack off-color jokes."
Some women end up quitting their jobs and working elsewhere. They are often afraid to tell their husbands about the harassment because the husband often tells them to stay home. This means the loss of income in the household.
In the ancient Vedic tradition women were honored and respected. Many had roles outside the home as teachers, sages, priests, care givers and domestic workers. It is so very sad to see the plight of women in modern India. It is good to see the new law and more awareness on the topic is very much needed and appreciated. Education is important on this topic. No woman should have to experience this sad situation. Teachers, priests, mothers, fathers and others need to educate families on this concern. We must break the secrecy on this issue. Women and men are suffering because of this situation. Remember every woman is Divine Shakti on Earth.
JAI SHRI MA! JAI SHRI AWARENESS!