Call for workplace sexual harassment conduct code

forumKUALA LUMPUR: It is important for workplaces to have a code of ethics to prevent any form of sexual harassment, lawyer M. David Morais said today.

Morais had represented Asmah Mohd Nor in a court case recently, where her superior, former Lembaga Tabung Haji Manager Mohd Ridzwan Abdul Razak, had been accused of sexually harassing her.

The Federal Court had ordered Mohd Ridzwan to pay costs of RM20,000 to Asmah, on top of the RM120,000 in damages that a lower court had awarded her.

Morais noted that it was important for employers to implement a code of conduct at the workplace in order to prevent such cases from happening.

“It’s simple. All they need to do is ask: ‘Did you do this? Yes? You’re fired’.

“Sexual harassment is a very serious issue, and it is very common at workplaces,” Morais said at a forum on sexual harassment in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

He added that it was impractical for employees to take every sexual harassment case to court, as they might not necessarily have the resources to do so.

“This is why we need a code of ethics and conduct at the workplace. In any case, an employee taking it to court would cost her at least RM100,000. The money that Asmah received – for example – could have barely covered the cost she would have to bear if we had not decided to do it pro bono,” noted Morais.

In June, the Federal Court, in a trend-setting decision, accepted a High Court decision that Asmah was sexually harassed by her superior at the workplace.

The five-member panel unanimously dismissed the appeal by Mohd Ridzwan against the High Court’s dismissal of his defamation suit against Asmah.

This followed sexual harassment reports Asmah lodged against him.

Morais said the decision was important as it set a precedent for such cases.

He said this meant that sexual harassment victims could now sue and seek damages in civil courts, something that was seldom done.

“It’s an avenue for those who suffer such sexual intimidation.”