This code has been in development for some years. The Employment Equity Act, since its promulgation in 1999 has defined harassment as a form of discrimination, particularly if the harassment can be linked to the forms of discrimination listed in the EEA, i.e.
Race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, family responsibility, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, HIV status, conscience, belief, political opinion, culture, language, birth.
In 2014, they added “or on any other arbitrary ground” to this list
What the Employment Equity Act did not do was define harassment. They did define Sexual Harassment in a Code, which actually was published prior to the promulgation of the EEA as part of the Labour Relations Act. This code does define harassment and gives it a very wide definition, and it also defines separately racial, ethnic or social origin harassment.
Harassment is defined in the code as:
Harassment includes violence, physical abuse, psychological abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, gender-based abuse and racial abuse.
Types of harassment described in the code include:
Examples of harassment include, but are not limited to:
The code distinguishes between vertical harassment (the abuse of an employee by their manager) and horizontal harassment, (the abuse of an employee by another employee in the same position or level).
The process for investigating incidents of harassment is outlined in both this code and the code for sexual harassment, and failure to do so could lead to the company being taken to the CCMA for failing to protect the employee and the perpetrator facing both criminal and civil proceedings.
The code requires all companies to adopt a policy for harassment in the workplace and to ensure that all employees are made aware of the policy and the code and the potential consequences to both them and the company.
Remember, harassment is seen as a form of victimisation and therefore an automatically unfair labour practice. The maximum penalty for harassing an employee or failing to protect an employee from harassment in terms of the LRA would therefore be 24 months salary.