The former DJ and Top of the Pops presenter, Dave Lee Travis, was convicted yesterday of indecently assaulting a TV personality while preparing for a guest appearance on The Mrs Merton Show in 1995. The woman did not pursue a complaint at the time. Mr Travis has called the investigation against him a “witch hunt” and said, ” if patting someone’s bottom was a crime in the 1970s, half this country would be in jail”. Mr Travis was convicted of a criminal offence. There has, of course, been legislation prohibiting sexual harassment in the workplace since 1975. The DJ’s conviction confirmed an open secret at Broadcasting House where he was dubbed “The Octopus” by young female colleagues because of his wandering hands. Despite being aware of the allegations, BBC managers failed to act. It will now face calls for a review of the handling of allegations of sexual harassment at the corporation. Female staff have stated that they were afraid to report harassment to management for fear of being dismissed. No one should have to tolerate sexual harassment at work. Sexual harassment occurs where someone engages in unwanted conduct related to sex and the conduct has the purpose or effect of violating an individual’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or otherwise offensive environment for the victim. Use of sexually explicit language or pictures, inappropriate physical contact, sexist comments, jokes and banter will all give rise to the risk of sexual harassment claims. Less explicit conduct related to sex which has the above purpose or effect will also give rise to the risk of sexual harassment.
- There is no need for an individual to have already made it clear that the perpetrator’s conduct is unwanted in order for it to amount to harassment;
- A single incident can be enough to constitute harassment;
- The fact that the employee has put up with the conduct for years does not mean that it cannot be unwanted, nor does the fact that the employee initiated “banter” as a coping mechanism.
- The Equality Act 2010 protects a wide range of individuals within the employment context against sex discrimination including job applicants and employees, agency workers and other contract workers, partners, office holders and the Police.
- It is important that employers are aware that under the Equality Act they might be liable for the unlawful actions of their employees. Anything done by an employee in the course of employment is treated as having also been done by the employer, regardless of whether the employee’s acts were done with the employer’s knowledge or approval. So an employer can be vicariously liable for the discrimination or harassment committed by an employee in the course of employment. An employer will be able to defend such a claim only if it has taken all reasonable steps to prevent the employee from carrying out the discriminatory act. “Taking all reasonable steps” will include implementing an up to date Equal Opportunities Policy and training staff on discrimination and harassment in the work place. It is also vital that employers deal with any allegations or rumours of sexual harassment appropriately by carrying out a proper investigation.A tribunal can award compensation in successful claims.See more on sexual harassment from the Equality Commission by clicking here
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