The Sexual Harassment Bill [part two]

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December 21, 2015

Last week, I gave abroad outline of the provisions in the bill on sexual harassment, which was tabled in Parliament recently. Several persons have responded to the article, but if there is any indication of the pervasiveness of this cultural habit, the response from the reader below might be a good indication.

She writes to say that she is a young female who has been working with a security firm for a few years. She complained that she was sexually harassed by one of the members of staff on several different occasions. She further complained that he showed her pornographic videos on his phone, he took her phone number without her permission and called her at 2:41 a.m., suggesting sexual activities between them. After all of this, she said the latest incident was when he touched her on her thigh and tried lifting up her skirt. To make matters worse, he held her down and put his hand on his private parts. The reader said she was scared to report it because he always get away with stuff like that, but she got "flashbacks" and could not take it anymore. Eventually, she reported the matter to the general manager but nothing came of it. According to the reader, not even an apology. Having read legal eagle on sexual harassment last week, she needs advise on the matter.

not yet passed

Regrettably, the Sexual Harassment Bill hereinafter called the Bill is still before Parliament and is not yet passed into law. However, although sexual harassment is not recognised in any existing legislation in Jamaica, I am sure that you would be able to get a police officer from the Centre for the Investigation of Sexual Offences and Carnal Abuse (CISOCA) to investigate the matter with a view to bring a criminal charge against your co-worker for any breach of the Sexual Offences Act or any other law. From the brief facts, it might be Indecent Assault or Inappropriate Touching. My advice then is for you to make contact with CISOCA.

In the Bill before Parliament, it states, among other things, that an employer or supervisor shall not sexually harass a worker, nor should a co-worker sexually harass a co-worker. In addition, a prospective employer shall not sexually harass a person who is seeking employment or to make it appear that the offer of employment or the terms on which employment is offered are contingent on a person's acceptance or submission to sexual advances from perspective employer.

Under the said Bill, the employer would be obligated to take immediate and appropriate action where the employer becomes aware of sexual harassment. Where the employer fails to take immediate and appropriate action, that employer would be liable for failure to act, and in addition, the aggrieved person may make a complaint to the Tribunal within 12 months from the date of the alleged failure. However, before making the complaint to the Tribunal, the aggrieved person shall use and exhaust the internal procedure available to deal with these complaints. However, the Tribunal or the Court can allow the complainant, in appropriate cases, to bring the complaint directly to the Tribunal or the Court, without pursuing the internal procedures of the company or institution.

It should be noted that because in these institutions or companies sexual harassment events can circulate so easily, the Tribunal in making an award, may take into consideration the injury to the complainant's feelings or humiliation suffered.

P.S.: To my many readers, may you find peace and joy in this Yuletide season. Merry Christmas.

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