The risk of suffering a act of harassment or sexual harassment is present at all times, and the work is no exception. This type of behavior usually has women as victims, who can report their harassers to the work center.
However, the main responsibility for maintaining an optimal work environment for all employees lies with the company, which has a series of obligations to prevent and proceed in these cases, according to Silvia Rebaza, senior associate of the PPU study.
For labor purposes, harassment includes acts or conduct of a sexual or sexist nature, unwanted by the victim, which can create a hostile or humiliating environment for the victim and potentially affect their activity.
Harassment can be manifested through comments and innuendos, lewd looks or remarks, touching or bodily approaches, eye contact, display of images of sexual content, promises of preferential treatment or threats in exchange for sexual favors, jokes with sexual or sexist content, and any other of a sexual or sexist nature not desired by the victim.
“It should be borne in mind that although we usually associate sexual harassment with conduct directly linked to sexuality, sexist conduct may also be considered sexual harassment”indicated the lawyer.
He explained that “sexist conduct” is understood as all those behaviors or acts that promote or reinforce stereotypes in which women and men have their own attributes, roles or spaces, which suppose the subordination of one sex or gender with respect to the other.
Companies have a series of obligations to ensure that their workers complete their work in a healthy environment, without harming their integrity or suffering acts of bullying or harassment.
According to the expert, there are five measures that companies must take to prevent sexual harassment:
- Install an Intervention Committee. Companies with more than 20 employees are required to form a Committee, made up of two members elected by the workers and two appointed by the employer, guaranteeing gender parity. Companies with less than 20 workers must appoint a delegate against sexual harassment. This body is in charge of the investigation stage of the reported facts and of issuing, at its conclusion, a final report with recommendations for a final decision.
- Implement a policy for prevention and punishment. Any company with more than 20 workers must have a policy. This document must specify the channels for the presentation of complaints or denunciations, the investigation and sanction procedure, and the terms of each stage according to law.
- Mandatory training. Employers must conduct training on the prevention and punishment of sexual harassment for their staff. One at the beginning of the employment relationship with each worker, and another specialized in favor of the Human Resources Office and Intervention Committee or Delegate against Sexual Harassment. The latter is not required for micro and small businesses (mypes) registered in REMYPE.
- Annual evaluations. It is mandatory to carry out annual evaluations or diagnoses to identify situations of sexual harassment within the Company, which may be framed in those evaluations where the work environment is also measured. Likewise, these examinations should be aimed at identifying improvement actions for the prevention of sexual harassment.
- Spread information. The company must disseminate information that allows identifying acts of sexual harassment, as well as anticipate the applicable sanctions in case they are incurred. The channels for dealing with complaints must also be publicly and visibly disseminated.
In the event that an act of harassment or sexual harassment has been perpetrated and the victim has filed a complaint, companies also have a series of obligations to comply with:
- Dictate medical and psychological care measures. The Human Resources Office must order medical and psychological care measures within one business day of receiving the complaint. If the company does not have these services, it makes them available to the alleged victim through public or private services.
- Dictate protection measures. Appropriate protection measures must be issued to ensure the integrity of the complainant or witnesses within three business days of receiving the complaint.
- Start the internal procedure. Faced with the presentation of the complaint or in case it becomes aware, by any means, of alleged acts of sexual harassment, the Human Resources Office transfers the complaint within one business day of receipt to the Intervention Committee Against Sexual Harassment.
- Guarantee the development of the research stage. Once the complaint is received, the committee must initiate the investigation stage, for which it has 15 calendar days. At the end, it issues a report with the conclusions of the investigation and communicates it within one business day to the Human Resources Office.
- Make a final decision. The Human Resources Office must put an end to the internal procedure within a period of 10 calendar days counted from receipt of the report with the conclusions of the investigation, after evaluating the defense and arguments of the parties. This decision contemplates the sanction or acquittal of the accused, and must include additional measures to prevent new cases.
- Notify the Ministry of Labor and Employment Promotion (MTPE). Companies must inform the MTPE of the initiation of investigations into sexual harassment and the attention and protection measures granted to the alleged victim, within six business days of filing the complaint. The Company must also notify the MTPE of the final decision, within six business days of its issuance.
There are a series of situations that could generate doubts among the victims, such as if the accused is a manager, he resigns or if the company does not initiate the procedure.
Rebaza explained that in case any of the parties (complainant or defendant) resigns, the company has the obligation to continue with the investigation and sanction procedure.
On the other hand, in the event that the accused is a trusted person or management, the alleged victim can initiate the corresponding investigation procedure or even dismiss himself by requesting the payment of compensation for arbitrary dismissal. If the second is chosen, the worker will not be required to provide prior communication.
Another possible situation is that during the investigation evidence of crimes related to the act of harassment becomes known. In these cases, the company must inform the Public Ministry or the National Police of Peru (PNP) within a period not exceeding 24 hours.
Finally, if the company decides not to initiate the procedure in the face of a complaint of harassment, the victim can request the cessation of acts of hostility or be fired by requesting the payment of compensation for arbitrary dismissal, without the need to send a prior communication. This is regardless of the qualification of the reported personnel.
In addition, not initiating the corresponding procedure constitutes a very serious infraction in terms of labor relations that is sanctioned according to the size of the company.