Harassment of LGBT Employees: Are Employees too Worried to Report it to their Employer?

The Trades Union Congress (“TUC”) has done a recent survey on the topic of harassment of LGBT people in the workplace. From the population of approximately one thousand people canvassed, 68% said they had been subjected to at least one type of sexual harassment at work, of which 70% stated that the most recent incident of unwanted sexual behaviour at work had been from a colleague, and 12% stating that they had been harassed by their direct manager or another manager. One of the examples that was cited is that of a lesbian employee who reported that a colleague was prone to saying things like ‘I wonder if she ‘pervs’ on us’. The survey suggests that people are subject to inappropriate comments of a sexual nature by colleagues because of ignorance and the ‘sexualisation of LGBT identities’.

The research found that on average 7 out of 10 LGBT people are experiencing some sort of sexual harassment, and that this was taking place in all types of ‘professional environments’ and was not confined to certain types of sector or workplace.

Many victims of the LGBT community are reluctant to complain, with the fears of negative relationships at work or their career being damaged. Other victims simply keep quiet to avoid revealing their sexual orientation or gender identity.

As an employer, what can you do?

  • conduct training for staff members, to seek to educate them and to prevent the types of conduct reported in the survey, explaining in particular the impact this has on the victims, and the internal procedures that will apply if discrimination is found to be taking place; and
  • ensure that you have internal procedures in place designed to ensure that everyone has the right to raise formal complaints if they have been discriminated at work and that those who perpetrate discrimination are dealt with appropriately.

As an employee, what can you do?

  • ensure that you are aware of the policies and procedures that are in place and follow these if you feel that you have been discriminated against.  There are clear laws in place to protect discrimination, so ensure that these complaints are dealt with correctly;  
  • take legal advice if you feel that you have been discriminated against and you feel that your employers have not dealt with your concerns appropriately.

If you would like to discuss any of the issues raised in the above article, please call 0330 123 1229 to speak to a member of our HR/Employment Law department.

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