Staying long hours with somebody in one place can lead to familiarity. This familiarity can lead to love interests, nicknaming and demolition of boundaries. And broken boundaries may lead to unguarded touching. A tap on the shoulder, a hug, admiration of outfits, new hairstyle and sharing of meals become normal. Some colleagues refer to each other as wife, hubby, bae, mlamu, sweetie pie or wanga.
What many do not realise is that affectionate name calling, touching or interaction in the workplace in tantamount to sexual harassment. Whatever one calls it; it is illegal and attracts a fine. There should not be any interaction deemed too close or familiar. Workplace interactions must have safe distances and well censored speeches to avoid breaking the law. No amount of friendliness should justify inappropriate touching because the law forbids it.
What if people took the above seriously and reported all that is within the breakage of the law? Is this law not simply infringing upon the relaxed and de-stressing aspect of free interaction in the workplace? Isn’t the long hours we spend at the office justification to free interaction—after all, we almost become siblings— or do we?
Firstly, an act becomes wrong when the other party is offended. But when two people consent, no law is broken. However, if a third party becomes offended by the inappropriate interaction of the consenting duo, we have a problem and the law will act. But if the lovebirds decide to take their affection outside the workplace, they are safe. The law is dynamic and has guidelines. Just ensure you have enough evidence when pursuing sexual harassment and ensure boundaries are drawn before crying wolf.
In a nutshell, stay away from a man or woman that is not your wife or partner. Just like our Brains story on page 3 elaborates, if you decide to comment on her plump legs, big behind, his full crotch or perfect haircut, you are courting trouble when the other party is offended. Never pounce on another’s chest simply because she smiles at you and you assume that is a green light. Never plant kisses on a male co-worker just because you feel attracted to him or are looking for favour. Such acts will land you in trouble.
Some may blame women’s dressing such as tight fitting clothing or minis as green lights for sexual advertisements. Listen, her dressing will never win in a court of law because the same law permits freedom of dressing. It may be up to a company policy on sexual harassment to specify kinds of dressing. Nonetheless, a woman gets preyed on even while wearing chitenjes or long skirts. A sex predator will always attack regardless of what a woman is wearing.
Let he/she ho has ears listen. Take heed or risk everything just because of hot headedness. Zina kumangoyan’gana.