Non-threatening, superficial, light-hearted sexual banter can be rife in the workplace, especially in countries like the Czech Republic, where it seems to be a natural part of everyday communication between men and women at the same level of employment, or between those at different levels.
This should be separated from sexual harassment, which takes a different form.
EU legislation, defining sexual harassment and outlining steps for fostering appropriate workplace behaviour, has been implemented, and the European Working Conditions Observatory (EWCO) reports that a number of companies have established a workplace code of ethics. Czech public officials, however, largely consider mild sexual harassment in the form of degrading remarks toward one's female co-workers a non-issue. Czech public officials do not generally know how to deal with more severe sexual harassment, or bullying, because they do not recognise it. Additionally, there is great resistance to change, and absence of change management, so it's practically impossible pursuing action via line managers. What is surprising, though, is that the German system is no better than the Czech one!
A simple enquiry to Lidl Germany about reading Lidl's workplace sexual harassment policy turned into drawn-out correspondence lasting several weeks, until present, with Lidl never acknowledging that they actually have a workplace sexual harassment policy. Most truly global and progressive companies have their policies, including the aforementioned one, on their company website for public access.
After waiting several days, I received the following first response from Lidl:
"Could you please tell us in which context you need the document?" (duh)
After waiting several more days, then weeks, for a response and the policy, I received the following statement from Lidl:
"Our company expressly dissociates itself from any kind of violence or repression including sexual harassment."
The above statement is a disclaimer (not policy) and seems to suggest Lidl is not legally responsible for any violence or repression, including sexual harassment in the workplace.
But according to EU/German legislation, it IS Lidl's responsibility and obligation to protect their employees against sexual harassment in the workplace. They should have a workplace sexual harassment policy, and this policy should define, with examples, mild and severe forms of workplace sexual harassment. It should also outline preventive measures, and measures and sanctions against harassing persons. Their employees should be informed the law, and victims of sexual harassment should be entitled to complain.
If Lidl does not protect their employees against sexual harassment, the employees are entitled, by law, to stop work, without loss of payment, for as long as Lidl does not protect them from the sexual harassment.
Warehouse employees in the Czech Republic are made to feel powerless, useless and worthless, by those in charge, but in fact, ALL the power rests within them as a collective. Production would come to a complete halt if all the female employees (constituting over half the employees) simply walked out of the warehouse in protest against sexual harassment. Lidl would be forced to pay them, at full rate, until the workplace situation was changed. This could, in the Czech Republic, take a whole year to change! And Lidl would have to pay all of them for this entire year.
A final statement from Lidl (several weeks after the initial enquiry):
"Legal basis for all our German employees is the General Equal Treatment Act, Article 12."
There is no Article 12 in the document General Equal Treatment Act. The document concludes with Part 7.
This document is an Act, not a company policy. An Act is a system of rules passed by the government. In contrast, a company policy is a document which informs and guides employees about their roles and responsibilities, as well as the company's business principles, ethics and beliefs for compliance reasons and to ensure a healthy company culture.
Lidl's first response to my enquiry dated August 14th could have been:
"I'm sorry, but Lidl has no company policy on sexual harassment, but we can refer you to the General Equal Treatment Act, Article 1, Part 1 § 3 (page 5) where there is a definition of sexual harassment. You may contact your line manager, but there is no specific procedure that they should follow in the event of sexual harassment."
That global company Lidl has no company policy on sexual harassment is more than a little scandalous and unacceptable. As is the length of time and manner in which Lidl responded to my enquiry which supports the absence of this policy and a significant flaw in management.