In March 2023, Brazilian legislation took a significant step towards a safer work environment for women. With the approval of Law 14,457/2022, the Internal Committees for Accident Prevention (CIPA) began to play an effective role in combating sexual and moral harassment at work. But how does it work in practice? What paths should leaders follow to protect female employees?
Questions like these are clarified by labor and social security lawyer Romeu José de Assis in the book “50 Tons Reveladores de Assédio Sexual e Moral no Trabalho para Líderes” (50 Revealing Shades of Sexual and Moral Harassment at Work for Leaders). The reading is recommended for leaders who need to adapt to the scenario, as well as for female workers who must understand their rights and, based on that, demand support from employers in the fight against these crimes – without fear of reprisals and persecution.
Structured in short and direct chapters, the book provides explanations about: what constitutes sexual and moral harassment at work; types of penalties; legal and psychological consequences of the crimes; and ways of reporting. It also offers paths for prevention, clarifies the role of companies in protecting women, and points out how leaders should conduct an internal investigation.
The consequences of cases like these result in losses for institutions and employees, explains Romeu. Psychological damage can lead victims to illness and incapacity to perform their activities. Furthermore, if no action is taken, the company will be held accountable by the justice system and may incur compensation, fines, and workplace adaptations; it will also suffer reputational damage with employees and clients.
For the specialist, resolving these issues – still very common in Brazil – is relatively simple: investing in leadership training at all hierarchical levels of the organization, as well as providing appropriate support to women in cases of harassment.
How did Law 14,457/2022 effectively impact the protection of women in the workplace?
An unpleasant surprise for many businesspeople, who at first did not see the need provided for in the law, however, given the consequences that a case of harassment can bring against the organization, understanding signals the implementation of protection in the short, medium and long term .
Could you explain how the Internal Accident Prevention Committees (CIPA) began to deal with harassment cases after this legislation?
CIPAS, at first, are assimilating their new duties, through training given from March 2023; Over time, throughout Brazil, it will be common to see lectures and debates on the subject at SIPATs – Internal Accident Prevention Week, all to raise awareness among women about the new legislation and their rights while working.
What are the main steps that leaders and managers can take to ensure a safe work environment for female employees?
The first and fundamental thing for a leader is to know what could happen to him if he is involved in a report of sexual or moral harassment, such as having to respond to a criminal case and losing his position, for just cause and being defamed in the job market, family and social environment in which they are inserted.
In your view, what are the legal and psychological implications for victims of harassment in the professional environment?
The legislation provides protection for women, including the ability to continue in their work without being harassed by anyone, however, if they report false harassment, they will suffer the consequences of dismissal for just cause, and may even be prosecuted for slander and defamation. Since the harassment is true, if she is unable to stop the harasser’s advances and does not report it, it is known that she could contract illnesses, such as depression, insomnia, loss of self-esteem, and even feel guilty for everything that happened.
What is the role of companies in protecting women from harassment in the workplace, beyond simply reacting to reports?
Hire specific training for all leadership, including managers and directors, and be open to understanding, recognizing that women must be protected and respected in the workplace, declaring “zero” intolerance towards harassers. Commit yourself fully to the cause.
How does the work “50 Revealing Shades of Sexual and Moral Harassment at Work for Leaders” address the issue of harassment, offering practical guidance for leaders and workers?
The work contains the right dose to raise awareness among both leaders and women, with an initial overview of the problem, moving forward with questions and answers, the most important, leaving the reader informed about the subject, including demonstrating how a Labor Judge proceeds to calculate a compensation in case of labor action, and what happens to the harasser in criminal terms: detention or imprisonment, considering that most workplace harassment is carried out by management, that is, occupants of leadership positions in all hierarchical layers .
What are the recommended measures for the effective prevention of sexual and moral harassment in the corporate environment?
The most important director of the company must communicate in writing that from that date onwards, the organization declares support for the protection of women against sexual and moral harassment in the workplace, informing what a person should do in case of being harassed by their superior hierarchical or co-worker. And, logically, investigate any and all complaints, applying administrative measures that each case requires.
Could you detail how the lack of preventive actions or adequate support can impact institutions and employees themselves?
Some basic consequences for companies: “scratched” reputation in the community in which it operates; be considered a harassing institution by labor justice. For women: loss of motivation to continue working, studying, collaborating with ideas to solve problems; interrupted dreams, loss of self-esteem and self-image; occupational diseases, propensity for work accidents due to the established deconcentration. Social isolation.
In addition to the legal implications, how can companies be affected in their image and reputation in the face of untreated harassment cases?
Being recognized as an inhumane company by the Public Ministry of Labor, as well as by customers and suppliers, failing to do important business with potential customers and losing current customers, as they do not agree with the inertia observed; employee turnover and loss of image for future hires.
In your opinion, what are the most common challenges that organizations face when dealing with harassment reports, and how to overcome them?
There are at least two challenges, namely: 1) lack of leadership training and awareness, at all hierarchical levels, which makes interpersonal relationships within work unsafe and dangerous – the old and reprehensible practice continues to be practiced; and 2) women’s lack of awareness of their rights, with the consequent fear of reporting the harm they have been suffering.
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