This week Harvey Weinstein, one Hollywood’s most renowned and powerful film producers, has been accused of historic sex offences by a number of actresses, models and some of his own female staff. The details are shocking, compounded by the fact that other prominent and powerful figures in Hollywood allegedly stood by and condoned the behaviour.
In light of such a high profile case of sexual assault and harassment, we reflect on harassment under the Equality Act 2010 (“EqA 2010”) and the obligation on employers to safeguard their staff.
Sexual Harassment under the Equality Act 2010
Harassment in the workplace is prohibited under the Equality Act 2010 (“EqA 2010”). This means that it is unlawful for one person (A) to engage in unwanted conduct towards another (B) related to a relevant protected characteristic (age, sex, sexual orientation, gender reassignment, religion and belief, race, pregnancy and maternity, marital status or disability). The conduct must have the purpose or effect of violating B's dignity, or creating an environment that is:
- Humiliating; or
Where the conduct is of a sexual nature, or where B is treated less favourably because they rejected or submitted to the conduct, this will also amount to harassment under EqA 2010. Sexual harassment in the workplace is serious. It can affect men, women and those that are transgender, and should not be ignored. Below we have highlighted examples of things that would fall under the category of sexual harrasment:
- Making sexual comments, jokes or innuendos;
- Making unwanted sexual advances such as touching and other forms of physical behaviour which points to unwanted sexual behaviour;
- Producing pictures, photos or drawings that are sexual;
- Sending messages via email, phone, etc. that possesses content of a sexual nature;
- Watching pornographic material at your desk, or distributing pornographic material amongst colleagues;
- Punishing someone for refusing or succumbing to sexual advances.
Much like in the case of Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment will often occur where the harasser is in a more senior or powerful position than the victim, making it difficult for the victim to feel able to challenge the behaviour for fear of not being believed. However it is important that employers are proactive and take a zero tolerance approach to such conduct.
For more information and tips on how to deal with sexual harassment as an employer, or what steps to take if you are the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, click here to read our blog.
This blog is for information purposes only. Whether you are an employer or employee, it is important to take legal advice for your own individual circumstances.
If you have any questions relating to this blog, or have an employment law related query, please get in touch with our Employment Team for a confidential no obligation chat about your needs on 0207 226 0570 / firstname.lastname@example.org .