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Transnet sexual harassment case heads to Labour Court

- Lee-Anne Bruce

CALS will be in the Labour Court on 30 October on behalf of a woman seeking to hold Transnet accountable for failing to address persistent sexual harassment

CALS represents a woman who has faced persistent sexual harassment by her manager while employed at Transnet. Despite her many reports to human resources, and his own admission of guilt, Transnet has failed to adequately or effectively deal with this violence and discrimination in its workplace. Instead, our client continues to confront further victimisation for reporting the harassment which has left her with serious health concerns and severely limited her career, while her manager remains gainfully employed at the parastatal. She now seeks to hold Transnet accountable.

On 30 October 2019, the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS), will appear in the Labour Court on behalf of an employee of Transnet who has faced years of sexual harassment at the hands of her manager. Despite making her first complaint of many about his conduct as early as 2008, the human resources department failed to investigate or take her reports further for over six years while the harassment continued. When, after numerous delays, they finally did conduct a disciplinary hearing in late 2015, her manager admitted his guilt. Despite the outcome of the hearing recommending he should be dismissed, he was later reinstated and continues to work in the same building she does.

Our client has not only had to go through the trauma of the harassment itself which resulted in her being hospitalised, but has also faced additional victimisation in her workplace for coming forward to report it. She has not been allowed to transfer out of the same department as her manager, and has not been considered for promotions for which she is qualified. She feels that she cannot resign from her position as she is a single parent and needs to support her child – and nor should she have to.

She has now approached the Labour Court in an effort to hold Transnet accountable for infringing on her rights, and breaching not only labour law but the parastatal’s own policies on sexual harassment. Our client argues that the parastatal did not take adequate or effective steps to address her complaints and provide a safe working environment. She is asking the Court for an order acknowledging the discrimination, declaring Transnet liable, and directing the parastatal to comply with the law in an attempt to prevent this from happening again. She is additionally asking for Transnet to pay damages to cover her medical expenses and lost income, as well as for pain and suffering, emotional shock and impairment to her dignity.

“Sexual harassment is acknowledged as a form of unfair discrimination and as a form of violence,” says Sheena Swemmer, head of the Gender Programme at CALS. “Our client has a right to fair labour relations and to a safe working environment, which Transnet has effectively ignored in its failure to adequately address her complaints and prevent further harassment. When employers fail in their duties, they in essence become perpetrators of violence themselves and they must be held accountable for this.”

Read a redacted version of our application here

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