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Remedies and Policy Development & Training

Remedy provisions in sexual harassment laws should reflect a policy of returning victims to the position they were in prior the harassment and should provide for dissuasive penalties.

Remedies for sexual harassment vary extensively depending on the facts of cases and on the type of laws or policies under which complaints are brought. Given this variety of approaches, remedies may range from reinstatement of a worker who was dismissed, to recovery of back pay and leave time, to policy changes in education or housing settings, to changes in working conditions, to awards of compensatory and punitive damages. Some perpetrators are also subject to criminal penalties.

Examples:

Philippine legislation provides that victims of harassment in the workplace or in educational and training institutions can access civil, administrative, and criminal remedies. (See: Republic Act No. 7877, sec. 4-5) Moreover, victims in the Philippines can pursue civil cases against both employers and the individual perpetrator.

Benin’s law is one of the few that lists specific remedies available to judges in cases in which a child is sexually harassed. [internal link to Benin case study below] Benin’s law also makes accomplices in sexual harassment cases liable for the same punishment as perpetrators. (See: Loi sur le Harcelement Sexuel)

In the United States, victims of workplace sexual harassment are required to file claims with the federal Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, or with a state-level equivalent, before they can file a private suit against an employer. (See: EEOC, Filing a Charge of Discrimination) Victims of sexual harassment in housing in the United States can bring claims to their local police, state and federal housing authorities, or can file a civil claim in court.

Australian law gives the courts power to order apologies, although this remedy is not often sought. See: Sexual Harassment Prevention, Ius Laboris, 2012.

Example: Minnesota’s Harassment Restraining Order Law
Some criminal laws not only punish perpetrators but also provide special protective remedies for victims of harassment. In the U.S. state of Minnesota, for example, anyone who is being harassed can apply for a Harassment Restraining Order. See: Harassment Restraining Order, Women’s Law.org. The law applies to harassment in any context, no matter what the relationship of the victim to the perpetrator. A temporary restraining order can be issued even without the harasser present in court, “if the court finds reasonable grounds to believe that the respondent has engaged in harassment.” See: Minn. Stat. sec. 609.748, subd. 4. A perpetrator who violates a restraining order is subject to criminal penalties. (See: Harassment Restraining Order, Women’s Law.org; Minn. Stat. sec. 609.748, subd. 6. See also Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Sections)

Policy Development & Training

Laws on sexual harassment, whether criminal or civil, should require prevention, policy development, and training of those covered by and charged with implementing the law. These issues are addressed in detail in the context-specific sections included in this sub-section.

Laws should require that anti-sexual harassment policies be put in place across sectors. Laws should mandate the creation of organizational policies that include internal complaint mechanisms to allow victims to raise claims of sexual harassment without having to file a formal civil or criminal complaint. Victims of harassment are much more likely to raise concerns in an informal complaint process. Policies should require that immediate action be taken with respect to sexual harassment claims. This involves documenting the complaint, taking measures to stop any alleged harassment, beginning an investigation, and providing support for the victim.

Anti-sexual harassment training of public sector and private sector employees should be required, so as to aid in prevention of sexual harassment not only in the workplace, but in the educational, housing, sporting, and service provision contexts.

 

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