Laws should provide for the involvement of employees and their representatives in the process of creating policies related to sexual harassment. Laws in the Philippines and Sweden require this type of involvement, for example.
In the Philippines, employers must:
Promulgate appropriate rules and regulations in consultation with and jointly approved by the employees or students or trainees, through their duly designated representatives, prescribing the procedure for the investigation of sexual harassment cases and the administrative sanctions therefore.
See: Republic Act No. 7877, sec.4(a).
In Sweden, anti-discrimination legislation that came into effect in 2009 mandates that:
Employers and employees are to cooperate on active measures to bring about equal rights and opportunities in working life regardless of sex, ethnicity, religion or other belief, and in particular to combat discrimination in working life on such grounds.
See: Discrimination Act, Ch. 3, sec.1.
CASE STUDY – Sexual Harassment in Export Processing Zones
Export processing zones (EPZs) are special industrial centers that are set up in many developing nations. China accounts for a majority of the EPZs in the world, with the rest scattered in Central America, the Caribbean, sub-Saharan Africa, and Southeast Asia. EPZs are governed by special rules designed to attract foreign investment. Often these special rules circumvent national labor laws and prohibit trade unions from participating in negotiation and oversight. The vast majority of workers in EPZs are women, because they are often lower skilled and can be paid less so as to maximize profits. In Honduras and Jamaica, for example, 90% of EPZ workers are female. (See: Rosselson, Ruth, What are export processing zones?, 106 Ethical Consumer 2007) Sexual exploitation of women and girl workers has been documented in EPZs around the world. In Kenya’s EPZs, for example sexual exploitation has been extensively documented, often in the form of sex-for-jobs arrangements. In a survey of female EPZ workers in Kenya, 90% reported that they had experienced some form of sexual harassment. This often comes at the hands of mid-level supervisors who are in charge of hiring workers, but there are also systematic abuses against women. (See: Kenya: Sex for jobs in export processing zones, IRIN News, Nov. 24, 2008) Discrimination against women workers who become pregnant is also a common practice in EPZs. One example is in Mexico, where employers at EPZs require female workers to take pregnancy tests. Many pregnant workers are dismissed outright, while others are given leave but never allowed to return to work. (See: Export Processing Zones – Symbols of Exploitation and a Development Dead-End, International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU)) Union involvement is often prohibited in EPZs but in the Philippines, unionization at the Mitsumi corporation’s EPZ factory made a significant difference for women workers. Not only are working conditions in the plant reportedly better than at other EPZ companies, but when there was a case of sexual harassment at the factory, the union went to management and asked that the manager be punished. According to a union leader, the company took the union’s advice and incidents of sexual harassment have been largely unknown since the company’s action. (See: Spotlight interview with Josephine de Jesus, Union Voices (2005))
Previous Topic Special Procedures for Workplace Sexual Harassment Cases