Guidebook aims to help employers tackle sexual harassment

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The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security and five other departments issued earlier this month the Elimination of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace System Guide Book, to guide employers to eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace , protect the rights and interests of female employees, and provide a reference for procuratorial departments on the court.


As the founder of Beijing Yuanzhong Family and Community Development Service Center and a lawyer, Li Ying thinks there are two important things in the guidebook to take note of. 


First, the definition of sexual harassment is refined and comprehensive. This document states that sexual harassment is the act of making others make associations of sex by language, expression, action, text, image, video, voice, or any other means against the will of others, regardless of whether the perpetrator has the intent.


This definition makes it clear that regardless of the perpetrator’s purpose or intention, as long as the behavior goes against the victim’s will, that act constitutes sexual harassment.


Oftentimes, the harasser will argue that they did not want to harass the other person, and that they did not mean it. The guidebook places extra importance on this, indicating that the law and the public care about the feelings of the victims.


Making the feeling of the victims the primary standard for judgment is a big step in improving the definition of sexual harassment.


The second highlight is that the punishment for sexual harassment is more practical. According to the guidebook, measures to punish perpetrators include warnings and even dismissal. 


Those suspected of violating relevant laws and regulations on sexual harassment should be transferred to judicial departments. Meanwhile, taking measures to avoid secondary harm to victims is also crucial. This can include moving perpetrators to jobs where it is difficult to contact the victims again.


Previous regulations focus more on what the responsibilities of employers are when workplace sexual harassment occurs, whereas the guidebook focuses on providing practical action plans for employers to implement whenever sexual harassment happens.


The guidebook also tries to answer an important question that many people have: what should a person do if they experience sexual harassment?


To start with, the victim can keep a record of when, where, and how the sexual harassment occurred, with precise details. Electronic evidence gathered can include call records, phone recordings, WeChat, SMS and QQ chat history, as well as emails. Many victims tend to delete and block the perpetrator because they feel uncomfortable or disgusted by the situation, resulting in a loss of evidence.


Therefore, it is particularly important to pay attention to evidence collection. In addition, relevant electronic data such as online posts can be used as well.


Because sexual harassment in the workplace mostly occurs between acquaintances, it can be difficult to collect evidence. Therefore, it is recommended that victims actively seek third-party assistance, such as by calling 110. Calling the police also enables law enforcement to begin an investigation and to start collecting evidence.