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What should you do if a colleague or employer is sexually harassing you?

Sexual relations at work can lead to a happy union, but also to relationship drama and harassment. Any sexually degrading and oppressive activity, such as making inappropriate comments, promising benefits for sexual services, etc., is considered sexual harassment (clause 3 (1) 5) of the Gender Equality Act). Intimate relationships between the manager and a subordinate are particularly difficult as one party has power over the other. What should you do if a colleague or employer is sexually harassing you?

The first step is to deal with the situation yourself by talking to the harasser face to face. This may seem daunting, but with an honest conversation where the harasser is made aware of their inappropriate behaviour, the situation may be resolved quickly. Often, harassment can occur due to misunderstandings, and an open conversation will help the harasser to stop their inappropriate behaviour. If they ignore the victim’s pleas, the victim should talk to their loved ones who can support them at a difficult time.

It is also important to report the situation to a human resources manager or supervisor, whose responsibility it is to ensure that the unequal treatment ends immediately. The best thing to take with you when you go to report harassment is evidence, such as correspondence, tapes of conversations, witness statements, etc. However, if there is no evidence, it is worth informing your HR manager, supervisor and co-workers about the situation, so that they can notice the discrimination, contribute to stopping it and, if necessary, testify against the harasser.

If the situation cannot be resolved, you can turn to the Equality Commissioner, the Labour Inspectorate or the police. If sexual harassment is confirmed, the victim has the right to receive separate damages for discrimination.

No one should have to work in fear or discomfort because of harassment. Don’t be afraid to talk about your concerns!

This explanation does not constitute legal aid in a specific case. Therefore, if you feel that you have been treated unequally, but you did not find a solution to your problem in this article, or if you have a question, please contact the Equality Commissioner by e-mail at avaldus@volinik.ee or telephone +372 626 9059. The anonymity of the person is guaranteed when contacting the Commissioner.