Harassment in the workplace

The employer must see to it that the employee does not become a target of sexual or gender-based harassment in their working life. The responsibility for eliminating the harassment is transferred to the employer at the point when they receive information about the harassment that the employee has experienced.  The employer is guilty of discrimination as defined in the Equality Act if they neglect to take the steps available to eliminate the harassment.

If the perpetrator is the employer themselves (for example the CEO, a member of the board or another person with a similar position) then the victim does not have to inform another representative of the employer separately about the discrimination for it to be considered prohibited discrimination.

It is, however, primarily the responsibility of the victim of the harassment to make the perpetrator aware that their actions are not desired, unless there are special reasons to the contrary. If the harassment for example includes threats of weakening the victim's position if they do not submit to the harassing behaviour, then no importance should be placed on whether or not the victim expresses that the behaviour is undesired. In situations where the perpetrator should have exercised judgement and should have known that their behaviour was disturbing and unwanted, the victim cannot be considered to have a responsibility to express to the perpetrator how they feel about the perpetrator's behaviour.

A victim of harassment can inform e.g. their manager, occupational safety and health manager, occupational safety and health representative, another employee representative or the occupational health care. If needed they can also receive guidance and help from their Occupational Safety and Health Inspectorate, their trade union or the Ombudsman for Equality.

When a suspicion of harassment arises, the employer has to undertake the necessary measures to eliminate the harassment. Only the employer has sufficiently effective authority and means to take action. These actions include:

  • notifying the perpetrator of the situation
  • warning the perpetrator
  • reorganising work duties or workspaces 
  • dismissing the perpetrator or terminating their contract.