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What constitutes sexual harassment?

Victoria Derbyshire | 08:27 UK time, Monday, 31 March 2008

HAve you ever been sexually harassed at work? How did your bosses deal with the situation?

The reason we ask if cos from next week employers will be duty-bound to protect their staff from sexual harassment by CUSTOMERS. And if your boss fails to protect you - you could claim compensaton. The rules are likely to have the biggest impact in the catering, hotel and retail trades where according to the Equal Opportunities Commission, sexual harassment is rife.

So if you work behind a bar in a pub, you're a waiter or waitress, you run a pub or hotel or restaurant - do you think the new law is fair and workable; what constitutes sexual harassment - could it include a customer calling you "love" or "darlin" as some suggest?


  1. At 09:31 AM on 31 Mar 2008, Harry Webb wrote:

    This will be a minefield for employers and employees alike. The only people who will profit from this will be lawyers.
    In actuality, the individual's rights and responsibilities will not change. Nobody will be any better protected by the Law. It will just mean that the question: "Who do I sue/prosecute?", may now have a different answer.

  2. At 09:47 AM on 31 Mar 2008, adrianne wrote:

    i was sexually harassed at work by a client who my company worked for. Although my boss was aware of what was going on, he was too weak to confront the man. Eventually i told my boss that i needed his help with the situation. The client then told me that I had ruined his relationship with my boss, that i had over reacted and basically said that if i continued to take this line he would take his business elsewhere. I was made to feel that this was all my fault. The only stand I could take was to refuse to be in a situation where I was working on my own with this man. After that things calmed down, but i never really felt that i had been supported. I was a young woman at the time, and i feel that my older male boss could have taken more steps to protect me from this.

  3. At 10:05 AM on 31 Mar 2008, Brian Baggott wrote:

    Your contributor from Brighton who runs a sales team and is concerned about what happens to her staff while away from the office surely has an easy remedy.

    If harrassement is reported to her then she should contact the company who employed the person who harrassed her employee.

    She has then demonstrated she has done all she could in the circumstances to protect her employee.

    Brian Bggott

  4. At 12:13 PM on 31 Mar 2008, Dan Martin wrote:

    One point that also should be considered is the publicity surrounding these changes. I'm the editor of a website for small business entrepreneurs and until today I'd heard nothing about it. According to the Daily Mail, Harriet Harman used a statutory instrument that requires no debate in Parliament to introduce the law. It appears to me to be yet another example of the government introducing more burdens on small businesses with little or no consultation or warning.

  5. At 01:50 AM on 01 Apr 2008, Chris wrote:

    I do believe it will be useless.

    Let's say I work in a shop, and I'm harassed then maybe (And I say maybe because bosses never do anything about it) the boss could do something.
    But let's say I meet this same customer in a pub, local supermarket, then we are no longer in Shop staff vs customer situation, it becomes me vs another person in everyday life. Can't see how work could help.

  6. At 03:47 AM on 01 Apr 2008, k Hill wrote:

    I feel that this change in law is very beneficial for employees, especially female staff. Working as a waitress from age 15 to 18 i was always being sexually harassed by rude and flirty male customers, especially when they had too much too drink at the christmas party. Also my boss was the head chef and owner and he frequently touched my bottom and said crude things to me, i just had to laugh it off. I felt i had no rights and if i said anything i would loose my job.

    Hopefully, employees will have the comfort that something can be done and that they know their rights.

    K Hill, 19, Redcar, Cleveland

  7. At 07:57 AM on 01 Apr 2008, Bill McClelland wrote:

    On one level this is entirely reasonable and fair. But as you hint in your prologue, in reality it will be very murky, particularly in hospitality/catering where I have read that one comment each from 3 different people could constitute harassment! Surely in that business it would force women into being sexless unsmiling robots so that the defense couldn't say "she was asking me to say "cor, you look gorgeous, darling"..." If, as we can see from the comments already, it's hard enough for some women to stop their bosses or clients harassing them, how will be able to legislate against one-off customers? How does the employer protect him/herself from prosecution in a pub - by having a large sign up, It is Forbidden to Flirt with the Barstaff? As a Labour voter, I have to say, typical Labour gesture legislation, costs them nothing, looks like they're doing something, will be a mess!...

  8. At 08:43 AM on 01 Apr 2008, cassandra wrote:

    having worked in several pubs and bars i feel being called love and darling is just a normal greeting (one of the nicer ones infact) however the first pub i worked in i was instructed by my employer that flirting with the regulars was expected i was also told if they ask u out let them take you out, the final straw was when i was touched innappropriatly by a customer and my boss (when i complained) told me i was overreacting!, i was 18 at the time and quite vulnrable, needless to say it was a learning curve and would not put myself in that environment again, employees should be protected from this kind of behaviour however fussing over being called love is only going to cloud the real important issue.

  9. At 09:18 AM on 01 Apr 2008, Jonas wrote:

    This is the worst piece of written english ever.

  10. At 09:23 AM on 01 Apr 2008, Paul Barrow wrote:

    I can only assume that post number 8 by David Shelton -

    "Oi, darling, get your knickers on and get me a cup of tea!" -

    must refer to his male partner as a gentleman certainly would not talk to a lady in that way.

    I will be thinking very carefully about my use of language in the workplace and will try to set an example to my colleagues to think about their behaviour not just their language.

    I have witnessed forms of harassment on many occasions, by all 3 sexes, in most cases purely in innocence and out of ignorance. I reckon that the first high profile case that pops up will make people think and hopefully moderate their behaviour.

  11. At 09:24 AM on 01 Apr 2008, Mark wrote:

    Employers who get their staff to wear provocative outfits will be on very shaky ground - if someone is harassed by a customer, it could lead to the employee also suing the employer.

  12. At 10:11 AM on 01 Apr 2008, JL wrote:

    "The reason we ask if cos"

    sorry but what has happened to journalistic standards at the bbc? the typo of 'if' instead of 'is' is bad enough, but blog or not, can your writers not be bothered to write 'because' anymore?

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