Everyone deserves a pat on the back for a job well done. But what about getting a pat on your backside?
“Sexual harassment: That’s when you say NO….right?” said one stewardess, who added, “You need a bigger notepad to write this down.”
Another stewardess was invited to her second job interview by the captain with a suggestion to “Wear nothing."
Sexual harassment is a human resources issue that causes crew to consult with their agents frequently, although most occurrences are unreported and undocumented. “We come across this on a regular basis,” says Rupert Connor, president of Luxury Yacht Group. “It's rampant in our industry.”
Sexual harassment occurs when one employee makes an unwelcomed sexual advance, requests for sexual favors or engages in verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature to another employee.
In the United States, sexual harassment is a form of discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. According to a current issues update from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), sexual harassment occurs, “When submission to or rejection of this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.”
Yet MCA’s Code of Safe Working Practices for Merchant Seamen has no reference to sexual harassment. And few yachts have explicit sexual harassment policies and reporting systems in place.
An exception is Luxury Yacht Group, which has the following policy and complaint procedure in its standard crew contract:
19. DISCRIMINATION OR HARASSMENT
It is our policy not to tolerate harassment or discrimination by any employee, vendor, customer, or visitor. Such behavior is inappropriate under any circumstances. Complaints of harassment and discrimination are taken seriously, and investigations will be handled discreetly in a timely, fair and thorough manner. Retaliation against anyone involved in reporting or investigating alleged harassment or discrimination will not be tolerated. Disciplinary action will be imposed when appropriate, based on the results of an investigation. In keeping with our employment “at-will” relationship, depending upon the nature of the findings, if employees are involved, disciplinary action up to and including immediate termination may be an appropriate remedy,” Courtesy of Luxury Yacht Group LLC.
Reporting sexual harassment is a tricky issue, as the offense may come from the person directly above you in the chain of command. In that case, Connor says the flag state, port state control officer, harbormaster or local police provide options to file a complaint.
Granted, in some cases, sexual harassment claims are exaggerated or baseless. “You have to ask a lot of questions to get to the bottom of things,” says one Swedish captain. “It's often hard to tell who is telling the truth.”
And there are times when crew who have been exposed to mild sexual harassment will try to laugh it off and move on. “You can’t be so sensitive and live in close quarters,” said one chef.
But there are many cases in which the harassment is impossible to ignore. Some yachts even have dance apparatuses, aka stripper poles, for all-male charter parties,who sometimes encourage crew to perform. Stripper poles on board are a new frontier for class society surveyors attempting to determine a “safe working environment” for all crew.
Have you ever been sexually harassed? Comment in our forum.