Sexual harassment failures could cost fortunes
Failure to crack down on sexual harassment and discrimination at work could cost companies a fortune, a London-based expert said last night.
Minna Salami, a writer, blogger and social commentator, said bullying and abuse of power affected a company's financial performance along with the emotional, physical and financial health of the victim.
She added: “There is a huge financial incentive, as well as every other incentive, to stop bullying, wounding comments and abuse of power ... because these have a profoundly negative impact not only on the victims themselves, but the overall prosperity of an organisation.”
She said: “Workers who are distracted and drained by anxiety and conflict in their workplace are clearly unable to produce their best work.”
Ms Salami, founder of feminist blog MsAfropolitan, was speaking at a public meeting at CedarBridge Academy.
She said sexual harassment could lead to physical and mental health problems for victims, as well as financial hardships because of lost wages or unpaid leave.
She added that, for companies, it made for “lower productivity, higher employee turnover and all of the legal costs that stem from sexual harassment”.
“The economy at large suffers from sexual harassment because there is also things like premature retirement and high insurance costs.
“In the US, you have companies having to pay out millions of dollars because of sexual harassment.
“So there really is a collective incentive to end sexual harassment. It is about the whole of society at large prospering.”
About 20 people attended the talk on “Sexual Harassment in the Workplace: Men in Power and Sensitivity Towards Sexual Orientation Within the Workplace”.
Ms Salami was invited as the guest speaker by home affairs minister Walton Brown, who has called for tougher laws to crack down on sexual harassment and to kick-start a debate on the topics.
She explained that sexual orientation discrimination exists when employees are treated worse because of their sexual orientation.
Ms Salami added: “Sexual harassment is what occurs when an individual engages in unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature, which can be verbal, non-verbal or physical.”
She said humanising the problems of sexual harassment and discrimination based on sexual orientation was key.
“After all, people only discriminate against those who they don't see as equally human as they see themselves.
“And so when we humanise the victims of discrimination, we are doing so much of the work that needs to be done.
She said it was also important for policymakers to understand that the main problem is that “LGBT people are not seen as fully human”.
Ms Salami added: “Sexual harassment in the workplace is also rooted in the fact that men in power do not see women as fully human.”
She urged politicians to “implement legal obligations for employers to take reasonable steps to protect their employees from sexual harassment and to be legally liable if they fail to do so”.
Ms Salami said employers could also do more to encourage discussion, train managers and provide support for victims.