Protecting your pride

December 14, 2020 Know Your Rights Our Resources

By Chris Gazenbeek, State Secretary

The following article is based on a sexual harassment issue which recently occurred in a workplace. Once you’ve read this article, you will realise that names have been changed for obvious reasons.
The member concerned had strong self-worth. Consequently, she stuck up for herself as she valued her pride and wanted to protect it.

An SDA Organiser became involved in the case and it is retold in this SDA edition as an encouragement to all members and in particular our younger members to stick up for themselves.
Julie contacted her SDA Organiser about a separate matter that had occurred in her workplace. Whilst the Organiser was talking to her about this issue, she commented that her troubles had begun after she had told her manager to “back off”. The Organiser then asked Julie exactly what she had meant by this, and she hesitantly began to recount her experience with the manager, Fred.
Within Fred’s first week at the workplace, he began to make lewd and suggestive comments to two of the young women who worked in the workplace. The particular manager was far older than his victims. Throughout the course of his first week, he began to pay particular attention to Julie. In the workplace he would make unwelcome comments about her appearance, and how he wished she were his girlfriend, despite having a partner himself. At first, Julie ignored these comments, but started getting upset when he continued to make them, even when she told him that she wasn’t interested. When she discovered that she was not the only one receiving his unwelcome attention, her concern grew.

Fred used a social media platform where he messaged Julie privately. He made obscene remarks about what he would like to do to her, and what she would be expected to do to him in return. Horrified, Julie asked the manager to stop, but he did not. Occasionally in the workplace he cornered her and naturally, Julie was humiliated. He even suggested that Julie should “play with him”. Julie said that she would go to the SDA if he didn’t stop, but Fred laughed, saying that he would be able to deny it by claiming that someone had hacked into his account.

Julie acted on her word, and recounted this information to her Organiser along with copies of the messages that the manager had sent her. The Organiser elevated Julie’s story to Stephanie, an SDA Industrial Officer who notified Head Office and organised an appointment with their employee specialist.

The meeting was subsequently held, and Julie gave her statement and evidence. Other staff members were interviewed, and finally the manager was called to give his account. He was given an opportunity to present his case, yet despite his threats to deny everything, he admitted his guilt in the face of overwhelming evidence. At the conclusion of the meeting, Fred was sacked.

Like most predators, Fred’s actions proved his cowardice. He preyed on those whom he thought to be helpless and powerless in order to appease his own fragile ego.

There is absolutely no place for such behaviour in our workplaces. If you are a victim of sexual harassment, or any other form of harassment and discrimination, you do not need to feel helpless. The SDA is here to protect your pride, and to give you the courage and assistance to remove such threats from your workplace. Stand firm in the knowledge that you are not alone!
Footnote: Julie is very proud of herself because she did not let a coward who was in a position of authority attack her self-worth.

Also, Julie is very proud to be an SDA member.

Julie, the SDA is very proud of you.