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Tackling harassment in the workplace
Over the last few months famous movie stars in Hollywood have come out complaining about sexual harassment on their journey to stardom.
On Thursday, Oscar winner, Tom Hanks said there are “predators everywhere” commenting on the recent accusations of sexual harassment in the movie industry.
In the media industry, American journalist, Matt Lauer was recently fired from NBC for “inappropriate sexual behaviour.”
Locally, there has also been accusations both in the corporate world and in society in general of sexual harassment.
Given what is happening globally and locally, Gabriel Faria, CEO T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce made it clear that the Chamber does not condone any form of sexual harassment, especially in the workplace.
“I am quite taken back at how prevalent it seems to be in North America. I am not sure what the prevalence is in T&T. But I must say that we are concerned at what we are seeing globally.”
He said the T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce would be “addressing the matter” in the future with members and through media releases.
“This must be dealt with as in T&T and the Caribbean to a wider extent, what was allowed to exist for many years and was assumed to be acceptable is definitely no longer acceptable. We need to make sure that we operate with the highest standards and operate under what we call best practices.”
When asked if he thinks the local legislation is strong enough to serve as a deterrent to that type of behaviour, he said he has not studied the matter in detail and cannot say.
“I think that any right thinking individual will not condone any practice which makes any individual feel uneasy in the workplace.”
Faria said T&T’s corporate world should be operating according to international best practice.
“If T&T’s legislation is not up to date as with any other thing, we need to correct it to be relevant.”
Given his extensive experience in the corporate world, Faria said he never saw that sexual harassment was openly condoned in any organization.
“At the end of the day I am certain that organizations do not just say ‘we allow these things to happen.’ That I do not see as an option. We just need to make sure that our legislative framework is in place. Moreso our moral framework.”
INAPPROPRIATE WORKPLACE CONDUCT
Nirad Tewarie, CEO, American Chamber of Commerce told the Guardian that sexual harassment, in his view has been “too prevalent” in the workplace.
“In the absence of statistics it is difficult to say whether it is increasing or decreasing. However it is clear that many more women are speaking up. This is a good thing. More and more companies are implementing policies to explicitly prohibit sexual harassment. But the institutional systems are not yet robust enough in many cases.”
He called on men to take the necessary steps to augment unsuitable behaviour.
“As men we need to take steps that inappropriate behaviour will not be tolerated. To be clear, once a person is uncomfortable with another’s behaviour, that behaviour is inappropriate. As companies and as a society we need to ensure that there are adequate systems in place to allow for the protection of whistle-blowers and victims and the punishment of perpetrators. Failure to do so is unacceptable.” Tewarie said
Commenting on what could be done to slowdown and potentially eliminate such practices, Tewarie said effective systems, punishment of perpetrators and men calling out other men are just some of the many things that can be done to reduce incidences of workplace harassment.
He said AmCham T&T believes that all leaders in the public and private sector have a part to play to ensure that workplace polices are unambiguous, definitive, clearly communicated and strictly observed.
“We must make certain that anyone who steps forward to report sexual harassment is protected against victimisation. There should always be an open and safe place for women and men to come forward with their allegations. In the same vein, we also believe that all parties (the accused and the accuser) must have a right to a fair, unbiased and thorough investigation.”
Sandrine Rattan, President of the International Women’s Resource Network told the Guardian that the problem in T&T and the Caribbean region is that there is a general absence of policy both in the private and public spheres on sexual harassment.
“Sexual harassment is not new. If there was a sexual harassment policy then we would not be seeing the cases we are now seeing.” Rattan said.
She said in the same way there is an employee handbook in all workplaces, and there are policies to handle matter such as wage negotiation as well as other matters, so too should companies draw up policies on sexual harassment.
“Unfortunately we are not seeing companies implementing these policies and measures,” she said.