In light of my last blog post I started to think about not just the problem but how to prevent it. I would like to preface this by saying that harassment is never the fault of the victim! The most effective way to stop sexual harassment is for the perpetrators to stop. In light of this I would like to propose a zero tolerance policy. The disturbing truth about harassment in the workplace is much of it goes unreported and is sometimes even not recognised as harassment due to the normalisation.
Support Your Staff
Businesses need to take responsibility for the safety and well-being of their staff. There is legal precedent for this responsibility in NSW.
“In the case of Caton v Richmond Club Limited (27 August 2003), a licensed club was found vicariously liable for the sexual harassment of a female worker. The Richmond Club was ordered to pay the sum of $15,000 in general damages to Caton, the complainant, for her suffering as a result of the sexual harassment to which she was subjected.”
Ways to do this include being very upfront to your staff and customers about the lack of tolerance you have and always validating the staff member’s complaints. Be aware of the customers your staff are serving and look for warning behaviors and attitudes. Be aware of your staff and their personal levels of comfort. Though clothing is no excuse for harassment do not make your staff wear overly sexualised uniforms. Doing so sets a precedent which implies management agrees with subjugation of the staff. Again let staff members choose their own comfort level when wearing a uniform.
Support Your co-workers
Look out for each other always. DO this so you can back up claims to management, intervene with customers and validate the discomfort of your co-workers. Change in management will take time; until then have each other’s backs and collectively refuse to see or experience harassment.
Act on your own discomfort. If you dislike the way in which someone is treating you encourage them to stop. If they do not listen it is harassment. Do not try to rationalise away their actions or your discomfort. ‘Gut’-feelings of discomfort are a type of “ancient biological wisdom”.
“Early humans who could speedily detect whether a stranger was friend or foe were more likely to survive, he says, and they would create descendants who were able to read emotional signals in another person’s face almost instantly.”
Support the customers
Finally do the same for your customers. Recognise “high risk behavior” and do something about it. “Bystander intervention is a key approach to preventing sexual violence.” You as a worker have a unique perspective on the customers putting you in a position of evaluation. In doing this you set a precedent for your own lack of tolerance and the establishments lack of tolerance which will (theoretically) lower the occurrences of harassment. It will also encourage customers to react on your behalf should you need it in the future.