Supplementary Information for Supervisors on the Subject of Sexual Harassment
If you witness an incident of sexual harassment or a direct complaint is made to you, you as supervisor are obligated to take action, as stipulated by the General Act on Equal Treatment [Allgemeines Gleichbehandlungsgesetz (AGG)] and the JGU's Policy on the Protection against Sexual Harassment. The latter explicitly includes university members, such as students, who are not (yet) covered by the AGG.
Dealing with sexual harassment in the workplace requires a high level of professionalism, especially in terms of counseling and conflict resolution skills, as well as being able to recognize and correctly classify it. However, since supervisors may have little experience and/or practice in dealing with such a situation, the following information is intended to support you and provide initial steps. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Present a clear position
- Make sure your team understands what constitutes as sexual harassment. You can find examples at the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency.
- Make it clear that sexual harassment is unacceptable within your team and highlight the possible consequences as stipulated by the employment and labor laws.
- Clearly state that the trivialization of sexual harassment as a joke or misunderstanding is unacceptable.
Remove the taboo
- Address the issue openly in your team and, if possible, independent of a specific incident.
- Let them know that you are available as a contact person for those affected.
- If possible, designate other people (of different genders) as initial contacts.
Team culture and the work environment
- Get an overview of possible risk factors, e.g. infrastructure, working hours, location, culture.
- Take preventative measures against the abuse of power and competition within your team.
- Promote respectful cooperation.
- If you witness sexual harassment, intervene.
- Take all allegations from complainants or third parties seriously.
- Document all allegations from complainants and/ or third parties.
- Maintain confidentiality and discretion. This also applies to third parties.
- You will find contacts persons, who you can ask for assistance, in the JGU’s Policy on the Protection against Sexual Harassment (pdf).
Exercise your duty of care
- Offer your support to the complainant and inform them of the existing support services.
- The complainant has the sole authority to interpret the events.
- Act in close coordination with the complainant.
- Take precautionary and protective measures, while also protecting the accused person from rash condemnation.
- Be transparent with the complainant, e.g. regarding your own inquiries, the preparation of notes, documentation, and further action.
- In the case incidents of punishable by law, you must inform the complainant that they have the option to press charges.
- Make sure the complainant is aware of the internal and external counseling options.
Support the complainant
- A complaint must be documented and assessed, and the results must be communicated to the complainant. You will find instructions on how to proceed via the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency.
- Document the complaint procedure.
- As a supervisor, you are obligated to put a stop to the harassment.
- The complainant must not face any disadvantages as a result of the complaint.
- Avoid a confrontation between the complainant and the accused person.
Listen to the accused person and, if necessary, take disciplinary action
- Conduct a meeting with the accused person, in which you lay out the allegations against them and ask them to comment on the situation.
- If the accused person admits to the allegations, you must take the appropriate and necessary measures and carry out the correct disciplinary actions, involving the responsible authorities if necessary. Depending on each individual case, these measures may range from a reprimand to termination of contract. Contact Human Resources for advice in specific cases.
- If the accused party denies the allegations, assess the credibility of the complainant’s statement.
- Inform the complainant that the meeting has taken place.
- Dealing with sexual harassment varies from case to case because all circumstances must be taken into account, making it impossible to outline a standardized procedure.