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Swearing at employees, insulting employees, use of abusive language or racist comments cannot be tolerated. As prescribed in the Code of Good Practice – Prevention and Elimination of Harassment and Discrimination in the Workplace, there must be a no-tolerance policy in place to protect human dignity in the workplace. Such behaviour impairs the dignity of employees who find such behaviour to be offensive.

What to look for?

Take a statement from the person who is lodging the complaint. Take statements from any witnesses. Interview the alleged transgressor to obtain their version of events.

Look for any provocation or coercion that may have contributed to the outburst.

What must the investigator prove at the disciplinary enquiry?

Lead evidence by having the initiator testify. Produce witnesses to testify in support of the initiator's evidence.

Show that this type of behaviour is unacceptable and cannot be tolerated. Show that in terms of the constitution, every person has the right to be treated with dignity and respect.

Harassment is a form of unfair discrimination and is not acceptable in any way. Harassment in legislation is referenced in the Labour Relations Act (LRA) (section 187 – Automatic unfair discrimination), and the Employment Equity Act (EEA) which regulates the Employer and Employee relationship but also the Employee and Employee relationship in so far as harassment and or discrimination (fair and unfair), and also the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act (PEPUDA) which regulates discrimination either by or against external parties to the employment relationship.

Harassment is defined legally as:

  • The impairment of employee dignity (self-esteem) consequently has a negative impact on the personal well-being of an individual. Where a person is ridiculed, marginalised, or excluded, it impacts their personal well-being and is regarded as harassment,

  • Subjection to abusive conduct,

  • Abusive language and bullying,

  • Constant criticism of an employee without invoking disciplinary or performance procedures, can be regarded as a form of harassment,

  • Emotional abuse (humiliating individuals or being intolerant of personal circumstances). An employer cannot only look at the task (contractual obligation), but should also look at the connection between themselves and their employees in order to build a strong relationship (psychological obligation),

  • Pressuring an employee to resign (constructive dismissal or making the working environment unbearable where an employee has no alternative, but to resign).

Harassment is unwanted conduct that impairs dignity, creates a hostile or intimidating work environment, or has the effect of inducing submission by actual or threatened adverse consequences, and is related to one or more grounds in respect of which discrimination is prohibited.

Harassment can be Physical, Psychological, or verbal. Workplace harassment policies should include all forms/types of harassment and also reference the Cyber Crimes Act which criminalises any act of online bullying, threats, and or harassment. The policy should have no tolerance for any form of harassment.

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