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A female mechanic was successful in her sexual harassment lawsuit against two customers. Her lawsuit was pivotal in defining sexual harassment in the workplace.

A female mechanic was successful in her sexual harassment lawsuit against two customers. Her lawsuit was pivotal in defining sexual harassment in the workplace.

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Sexual harassment:

Have you experienced sexual harassment at work? This is what you can do

Many people are subjected to unwanted sexual attention at work. Find out what your rights are here.
01.12.2022
09:18
01.12.2022 09:44

foreignworkers@lomedia.no

– Sexual harassment at work is a major problem, says lawyer Tina Storsletten Nordstrøm.

She is part of the legal team for the largest trade union in Norway: LO Norway

According to the Living Conditions Survey done by Statistics Norway, 17% of women between the ages of 18 and 24 experience unwanted sexual attention at work at least once a month (SSB).

The same amount of harassment was reported by three percent of men in this age range.

– These are incredibly high figures. We know that women in male-dominated professions are the most exposed, Nordstrøm argues.

The survey also discovered that most workplace harassment is perpetrated by people other than workplace colleagues. 

Of the respondents reporting sexual harassment, 79 per cent of those who reported said the unwanted attention came from customers, clients, students, patients or other non-colleagues.

Young woman won court case

Nordstrøm, an LO lawyer, represented a young woman who sued two customers for sexual harassment.

The woman is an industrial mechanic, and the two people she filed a lawsuit against were customers of the workshop where she was employed.

The woman is a member of the Norwegian Union of Municipal and General Employees (Fagforbundet). The union covered Tine Nordstrøm’s legal fees as well as the cost of the legal proceedings.

The Norwegian Supreme Court ruled in her favour, and the customers and her employer were required to pay non-monetary damages.

– No one should have to put up with unwanted sexual attention, Tina Nordstrøm argues.

1. Where do you draw the line?

Sexual harassment is unwanted and upsetting sexual attention.

– Sexual attention is not illegal, and flirting and saying nice things to someone is fine, Nordstrøm explains. 

– But sometimes this attention becomes distressing and undesired.

Unnecessary touch, such as tickling, can be offensive. The same is applicable for verbal advances using sexual references. The same can apply when someone is shown pictures or sent digital messages.

Nordstrøm explains that if there are sexual connotations you may find upsetting, and if it can be said that any reasonable woman would react in the same way to such attention, then this would constitute sexual harassment.

2. Report sexual harassment

Speaking up is the first step in reporting sexual harassment. However, this can be challenging.

Tina Nordstrøm advises that if you are unsure whether or not to report an incident, a good idea might be to write down what happened.

This will make it easier to think through the situation after it has happened.

You are not required to go directly to your employer. Speak with a union representative, a safety representative, a co-worker, or a friend.

– They can help you see the incident from a different perspective and recognise that this was not appropriate behaviour, she says.

In her opinion, it is often beneficial to have someone else evaluate the situation.

– Determining what is acceptable and what is not can be difficult, and sometimes we put up with things we shouldn't, says Nordstrøm.

3. Write down what happened

Nordstrøm’s advice is to describe the incident in writing, if possible in conjunction with the employer, in order to create a record of what happened.

– It’s a good idea to agree on what actually happened, to avoid differing understandings or inaccurate descriptions after the event.

Make a note of any evidence: was anyone else present? What occasion or type of workday was this? Any additional information regarding the situation and day in question."

4. The employer is obligated to follow the matter up

– If you report an incident, your employer has the responsibility to settle and address the issue satisfactorily, explains Nordstrøm.

– The employer must determine an appropriate course of action based on the evidence provided in each case, she explains.

This may involve reassigning employees to other teams or responsibilities, denying customers access to the workplace, or giving employees notice of termination.

5. You have a right to be told about the progress being made in your case

– An employee reporting an event has the right to be informed of the current status of the process, says the lawyer.

On the other hand, you do not have the right to request that the procedure be completed according to your specifications. You may prefer that nothing further occurs and that the matter be resolved, or that the person who harassed you be fired.

– It is the responsibility of the employer to manage this appropriately, to choose the correct course of action, and to keep you informed of the situation.

In cases like this, the employer too should also seek help and advice. For example, from union representatives and safety representatives, or from a trade union, the Gender Equality and Antidiscrimination Ombud (Likestillings- og diskrimineringsombudet) or the Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority (Arbeidstilsynet).

In some instances, it may also be necessary to conduct an investigation with the assistance of outside parties.

6. You have a right to be told how to report incidents

The employer is responsible for handling individual cases and preventing future incidents.

– The employer must offer information, and employees must be informed how to report incidents and to whom they should report them."

The risk of sexual harassment must be assessed in all HSE systems. If this information has not been provided, you should ask your employer.

7. Free advice

According to the lawyer, if an employer does not handle a situation correctly, legal action may be taken at a later stage.

If you are a member of a trade union, you can seek legal assistance from your union.

– In the trade union movement, you don’t have to pay the bill, says Nordstrøm.

She also informs us that LO's legal team is happy to accept additional cases.

– It's tough for members to become involved in legal proceedings, but I'm speaking out about the right to protection against sexual harassment and what it entails in the hope that it will encourage more people to report incidences of harassment.

Individual cases can also be prosecuted for free by the Norwegian Anti-discrimination Tribunal (Diskrimineringsnemnda). In circumstances like this, the Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority, the Gender Equality and Antidiscrimination Ombud, and the police are all useful resources.

– If your employer fails to help you, seek assistance elsewhere, says LO lawyer Tina Nordstrøm.

Translated by Robert Lovering

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Article in Lithuanian: Darbe patiriate seksualinį priekabiavimą? Štai ką galite daryti

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01.12.2022
09:18
01.12.2022 09:44

FriFagbevegelse for foreign workers

Here you will find articles relevant for foreigners working in Norway. Articles in Polish, Lithuanian and English will cover topics such as the rights, rules and laws that apply.

The website is made by FriFagbevegelse, a news site about working life and the trade union movement.

Please share the articles with colleagues and friends.

Got a story to tell? Contact us: foreignworkers@lomedia.no

> Read more news in English

> Więcej wiadomości po polsku

> Skaitykite daugiau naujienų lietuvių kalba