South Africa: ConCourt Ruling On Sexual Harassment By George Doctor Puts Spotlight On Workplace Power Relations

analysis

Sexual harassment in the workplace remains a serious problem in South Africa. Not all employers, nor all judges and commissioners, seem to recognise the serious harm inflicted on employees who are sexually harassed. They should all be compelled to study a recent Constitutional Court judgment on sexual harassment for a lesson on what is at stake.

Dr Charles McGregor was employed as head of anaesthesiology at George Hospital when he was found guilty of sexually harassing a newly qualified doctor who was completing an internship under his supervision. McGregor stood accused of making unwelcome suggestions of a sexual nature towards the victim "when he dared her to remove her clothes and swim naked"; of inappropriately pressing himself against the victim while demonstrating how to carry out a procedure; and of inappropriately touching the victim's leg.

Following an internal disciplinary inquiry in which he was found guilty of four charges of misconduct that amounted to sexual harassment, McGregor was dismissed from his job. He referred an unfair dismissal dispute to the Public Health and Social Development Sectoral Bargaining Council, where an arbitrator confirmed that McGregor was guilty of three of the four charges of sexual misconduct lodged against him. However, the...

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