I recently came across a case of workplace harassment and was appalled to witness the audacity of the accused. While talking to him, I wanted to punch him in the face at various points, but refrained from doing so because a new case would have started against me. I am a strong believer of gender equity; everyone should have their civil liberties and working with piece of mind and without the fear of harassment at workplace is everyone’s right – be it a woman or a man.
I have been working for the past 12 years now and have not only witnessed but also experienced a lot of such cases. Once when I was working for a TV channel, on a particular rainy day, a colleague-cum-friend reached office drenched in water. Seeing her, another colleague commented that she looked “pretty hot” in that condition. She replied with a forced smile and thanks. And the douchebag who had passed this dirty comment, walked away with a smirk on his face. I couldn’t digest the whole situation and encountered my friend who very casually ignored me and said that if she would have replied in anger, the guy would make her life miserable and she needed that job. WOW! What an excuse. He was, unfortunately, my line manager and eventually I had a huge argument with him and the matter went to the management.
I have been cursed in working with such perverts as my bosses. There was one, happily married and with two daughters, who had a habit of touching the arms of his female colleagues. Even after a decade, I don’t understand what pleasure he used to get out of it. I shared the same with my husband and my personal analyst of various things – including men’s psyche –informed me that such men do such things, apparently unintentionally, to judge how far they can go with a specific woman.
However, while there are hundreds of incidents and experiences that I can share and do a long series of posts on harassment, let the bygones be bygones. The main purpose of writing this is to inform the women about what to do if they face workplace harassment and the laws in Pakistan on harassment.
What is harassment?
According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, “Harassment is unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. Harassment becomes unlawful where 1) enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment, or 2) the conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive.”
So, you can say that if any remark, action or behavior from anyone about your race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, medical condition, family or your personal life offends or makes you uncomfortable, then that comes under harassment. It can be made by anyone to anyone, irrespective of gender.
What to do?
Here are a few tips you can follow when faced with this situation.
- Be aware
Read your company’s workplace harassment policy and how to report in case of any such incident.
If this happens, do not ignore or let it go. Confront the person, let him or her know that you didn’t like their comment and would appreciate if they do not make any such comments or do such actions in future.
If the person doesn’t stop their actions, report it verbally/in writing – preferably in writing – to your supervisor, Human Resource department of your organization or head of the company, whomever you are comfortable with.
- Follow up
If you think that one-time complaint hasn’t made any difference for you, follow up with the person/department you filed your complaint to.
These days everyone has a smart phone that has recording option in them. Whenever you think can be a good chance, record the conversations, proceedings or meetings you are having with the harasser. These can be used against the accused as evidence. File your complaint with the evidence and try to document everything.
- Don’t be afraid
This is the most important tip. Do not fear anyone in the process. The offenders usually are weak and can be scared away easily; you just have to be confident enough. If you show them your strong side, they back off immediately and do not repeat their mistakes in future.
However, if the harassment continues and your management doesn’t take any action against the offender, you can file a complaint against the person in police in three easy steps:
- Go to fos-pah.gov.pk
- Click on COMPLAINT REGISTRATION
- Fill out the form and submit it
And don’t just refrain from tolerating harassment against yourself but look out for your colleagues and team members as well. If you think that someone in your office has been harassed in any way, stand up for them. Do not shy away in helping others.
I was really upset after learning about the recent incident and also quite frustrated that women don’t speak up due to lack of information and the fear of getting a “bad reputation”. But we all need to understand that when someone harasses another person, it isn’t the accuser who is to be blamed – it is the accused. This idea need to be inherent in our nature. And to push that thought, I have made this small effort on my part by writing about how to deal with such offenders in the workplace. Now it is time for you to facilitate this process in your own way.
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