Workplace human rights: Is this sexual harassment?
I am a workplace human rights trainer and I learn of some important real-life scenarios from my workshop participants. I am often asked to provide expert feedback. The following are two very interesting workplace human rights scenarios—I have changed the names of those involved:
Maureen and Steve
Maureen and Steve work together in a downtown office setting. Maureen is new to the office and she and Steve hit it off from her very first day. One day, however, Steve made comments to her that crossed the line of respectful office banter. Maureen was visibly upset and did not attempt to hide her reaction from anybody.
Shortly after becoming co-workers, Maureen and Steve had quickly developed a rapport with each other that allowed for playful teasing back and forth. Their conversations were often of a sexual nature or included subtle sexual innuendo. One fateful day, Steve said to Maureen something to the effect of, “Your voluptuous breasts . . .” and Maureen became visibly upset.
Steve was instantly aware that his new office companion was deeply affected by what he said and approached her about it. Maureen explained to Steve that his comment was very personal and he should avoid future comments of a similar nature. Steve apologized and said although he was confused by what happened he would avoid such comment in the future. Steve may have been left to wonder if he had committed sexual harassment.
Morris and Everett
Morris has been Everett’s supervisor for over six years. Recently Morris had hired several administrative assistants and was giving the new recruits a workplace tour. The entourage stopped near the area where Everett was working and Morris introduced
everyone. “Everett is your go-to person, ladies, for advice on fashion, hair, make-up or anything else a girl needs to know these days.”
Everett smiled and said hello and didn’t let on that he was mortified by this introduction. He later shared his concerns with a co-worker who suggested Everett go and speak to Morris about how this incident made him feel.
Do you think Morris has discriminated against Everett on a prohibited ground under human rights legislation? Sexual harassment? Sexual orientation?
In my next blog post, in two weeks, I will follow up with a summary of your comments on these scenarios along with how I responded to each of these participants from a workplace human rights perspective.
I would love to get some feedback and your honest reactions to the scenarios found in this post.
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