What to do in Case of Experiencing Violence or Harassment at Work?

We Offer you Some Recommendations on what Steps you can Take if you are a Victim of Workplace Violence or Harassment in your Work.

Boss with his employee in an office

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LatinAmerican Post | María Fernanda Ramírez Ramos

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Leer en español: ¿Qué hacer en caso de vivir violencia o acoso laboral?

A recent global survey on experiences of violence at work and workplace bullying found that 23% of workers have experienced psychological, physical or sexual violence in their workplaces. This means that currently 1 out of 5 employees faces a circumstance of this type. It is a worrying situation that also affects women more, especially in sexual harassment.

According to this report, only half of the victims disclose their experience to other people, and they do so after suffering repeated incidents. "The most common reasons given for not disclosing their experiences are that it is considered a 'waste of time' and that people who have suffered abuse fear for their reputation," says a UN statement on the matter. Likewise, the lack of reporting can be due to a lack of knowledge on how to do it or, even, to a lack of identification of the abuse as such.

What are workplace violence and harassment?

The Convention number 190 of the International Labor Organization ILO defines violence and harassment as: "a set of unacceptable behaviors and practices, or threats of such behaviors, whether manifested once or repeatedly, that aim at, cause or are likely to cause, physical, psychological, sexual or economic harm, and includes gender-based violence and harassment”, says an ILO practical guide for companies.

In this sense, harassment and violence constitute any type of action or conduct, including comments, that causes harm and humiliation in the other person. This includes sexual comments or discrimination based on gender, origin, or physique.

We recommend you read: ILO: 1 Out Of 5 Employees Experience Violence at Work

How to report or put an end to the situation of harassment or violence?

If you find yourself in a situation like this, it is normal for you to have concerns and even fear. However, it is essential that you keep in mind that it is not your fault what is happening: not how you dress, how you talk, how you look or even if you have made a mistake. Violence and harassment have no justification and cannot be accepted.

We spoke with Ana Victoria Hilario, a lawyer specializing in labor law, who has experience with public and private entities in Peru working as a gender expert, especially in workplace sexual harassment. "In most legislations it is contemplated that the person is referred in the first instance to their organization, to the human resources office or equality office that receives these complaints. Then they follow the corresponding procedures, which will tend to sanctions for the stalkers," says the expert. In this sense, the first thing to do is to go to the company itself and identify the human resources office and the channels to make complaints or complaints.

However, if this is a route that is difficult to access, it is best to seek external advice from public entities or NGOs that are dedicated to providing legal and psychological advice. Many universities provide these services free of charge, as well as government secretaries or foundations. "In the case of Latin America, specifically in Peru, which is the one I know best, there is a public service exclusively designed to assist victims of harassment or sexual violence in companies called "Work without harassment". This service provides advice integral at the procedural and administrative level within the company, and accompanies the victim in the complaint, in the allegations and in general until the moment the report, resolution, or document that would sanction is issued, in Peru they have specific advice through a program called "State without harassment", which also provides psychological support," says lawyer Ana Victoria Hilario.

The important thing is to do a search for those services in your particular country or city. Likewise, the expert points out that unions can be resorted to and, in fact, request them to require companies to have protocols for dealing with cases of violence and harassment. Even if you do not feel that you are a victim of violence or harassment, but you believe that clear regulations are needed in your organization in this regard, it is also essential that you raise these requests.

"Sexual harassment does not go through a harasser who has a particular pathology that makes him harass, but rather it is about structural problems that arise from society itself and take root, while there is a naturalization of violence and a sexualization of women in various spaces. Thinking about it like this, it is crucial to see the role that work organizations play. I am referring to the company itself with its psychosocial risk prevention policies in which it must have a gender perspective to better identify precisely how these situations are triggering and prevent these events", explains Ana Victoria.

In this sense, the correct thing is that today companies have diversity, equality, and inclusion policies at work, which favor the formation of an organizational culture of respect. As well as effective protocols to report bullying, harassment or violence. "It is extremely important for the employer to have sanctions as they have a pedagogical purpose and shows that when a labor offense of this type is committed, it will not be allowed to pass. It is also essential to prevent through awareness and create a safe work environment for employees. This is achieved with constant training," explains the expert.

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