Sex pest cases on the increase

By Natasha Prince

Sexual harassment cases in the city are on the rise, with the provincial health department addressing two incidents and a third rocking the Salvation Army.

And labour lawyer Michael Bagraim attributes the increase to more people understanding their rights, which he says is putting pressure on employers grappling with the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace.

According to Bagraim, people in some cases were making very serious false claims.

But employers had to address each on its merits and try to settle the matters quickly.

In the latest case to be reported to the Cape Argus, a senior management official is being investigated after sexual harassment claims by a staff member at GF Jooste Hospital in Manenberg.

Provincial health department spokesperson Faiza Steyn confirmed receipt of the sexual harassment complaint.

The complaint, from a staff member, was "receiving very urgent attention".

This was the first sexual harassment case reported at GF Jooste Hospital in 2009, she said.

Steyn also confirmed that a sexual harassment case involving a senior official at the Emergency Medical Services ambulance division was still being investigated.

The official was accused of preying on women by insisting that they have sex with him in order to secure employment and training positions in the ambulance service.

He is also registered for nomination to the board of directors of the Health Professions Council of South Africa for the Western Cape.

The Health Department said it had appointed an independent government employee to investigate the allegations.

Meanwhile, a sexual harassment case involving a Salvation Army member, which was heard in the Cape Town Magistrate's Court this week, has been postponed to May.

Spokesperson Major Patrick Booth confirmed that an internal disciplinary hearing had been held and a decision taken.

He said the complainant had withdrawn her claim and that they now expected the court case to be withdrawn.

Bagraim, meanwhile, has called the legislation concerning sexual harassment outdated and inadequate.

An adviser from the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration explained that, pending the outcome of internal investigations and hearings into sexual harassment cases, companies did not necessarily have to suspend the accused.

However, Bagraim countered that this was advisable.

"You don't want the accused to be interfering with the complainant because it may send out the wrong message," he said.

sign up