• Sexual harassment refers to unwelcome physical, verbal/nonverbal sexual advances
• Victims often suffer in silence due to neglect by the state and letdown by the law
When she first met her boss, Jane* (not her real name) thought she would have a smooth transition into her new workspace.
"He presented himself in a respectable and friendly manner. He looked like a no-nonsense guy also," she said.
This was Jane's first work opportunity and she was excited to earn money to sustain herself.
She finally got the job at a store and began working in September 2018.
"The job was not that hard to understand. A few weeks into work and I was beginning to become better, my boss was also getting friendlier with me. I didn't think anything of it, I actually welcomed it," she said.
For Jane, the friendlier he was, the easier it would be to do her job because it made the work environment better.
"I thought I must be lucky if my boss is this nice, it made coming to work easier," she said.
After about a month, her boss sent her the first out-of-work text. It was a simple hi on Friday night.
He would ask her about her day at the office and this slowly graduated to asking about her social life.
"I hope your boyfriend will not be angry with us talking," he said in one text. "You have such a beautiful smile, your boyfriend must be lucky."
I didn’t know what to do because I couldn’t quit and I couldn’t report him. He was the boss and it was his shop. I had to persevere until he finally fired meJane*
LATE NIGHT TEXTS
At first, the texts made Jane very uncomfortable and she did not know how to respond to them.
"I would often say thanks and then avoid that conversation. The first time it happened, I thought it would be weird the next day, but he was acting as nothing happened," she said.
The texting graduated to him expressing his sexual desires for her and continually asking her out.
"He would tell me we should be more than friends and he would help me at work, all these promises for job favours," she said.
"At work, he started pulling me aside and talking about his feelings for me or touching me inappropriately."
Her boss was a married man who was almost in his fifties.
"He once tried to kiss me after everyone had left the office, I told him I was uncomfortable and he said I was just playing hard to get," she said.
When she did not reciprocate his feelings, he started abusing and stalking her.
"Work shifted from being friendly to toxic because he would always find mistakes in my work, then he started to delay payments," she said.
"When I would ask about the pay, he would tell me he will call me. These calls would come at night, and he would ask me to meet him the next day he will have the money."
He delayed her pay for three months and every time she would go to meet him, he would make a sexual advance, and when she declined, he would say he did not have money.
"If we made a loss, he would tell me he will cut it from my salary. And he started parking outside my plot, checking who is coming and going," she said.
He would call her and insult her if he saw a male companion with her.
"I didn't know what to do because I couldn't quit and I couldn't report him. He was the boss and it was his shop. I had to persevere until he finally fired me," she said.
He still owes her three months' worth of salary, she said.
MALES ALSO TARGETED
John* had friends who had undergone sexual harassment, but he thought it was something that only happened to women.
"I never thought it would happen to me. As a guy, it's so hard to tell people because they will only laugh at you," he said.
John was working at the time and was hoping to get retained by the company after his internship.
"I was a sales agent and getting a job meant I would get more allowances from the company. So when my boss approached me and said I needed to do extra work, I was all in," he said.
His boss was a married woman in her mid-forties and said she could make it happen.
"I thought she meant actual work but it actually meant having sex with her. I was shocked but I did it," he said.
John was promoted after having sex with her, but said he hated working there.
"I quit and no one thinks guys are sexually harassed. They think you should be proud," he said.
Mark* has declined sexual offers from rich women and even gay men when he was working for a firm in Nakuru.
"I already had a job so I was promised a car if I gave in to what they wanted. These are married people, mind you," he said. "If you need help, you will not get it if you do not sleep with them."
I wasn't very comfortable with his request because I thought boundaries were clear. He asked me for a photo of my private partsMary*
DEMAND FOR NUDES
Vivian* slowly shifts in her chair as she explains how she ended up in her boss's car.
"I had gone outside for some fresh air when he came outside and asked me to join him," she said.
"I have to admit I had taken a few shots of alcohol because it was a slow work day and about two hours work time left."
When they got in the car, he started telling her about how beautiful she was and trying to touch her.
"At first I was shy but I was also broke, so eventually I made the decision to engage him. He had promised to take care of me and being an intern, we were not paid," she said.
She says they performed some oral sex acts before he went back to the office and she followed later.
Another one of her bosses offered to buy her a new phone if she became his girlfriend.
"I never told anyone about what happened and I dated the other boss for a while so I could get that phone," she said.
Mary* was only two months old at her new job before she encountered sexual harassment.
"When he began texting me, I didn't think anything much of it. What I was hoping for was a casual relationship," she said. "However, the problem is that they started assuming we were in a relationship."
In one instance, they were both not working and he asked her for a photo of herself.
"I wasn't very comfortable with his request because I thought boundaries were clear. He asked me for a photo of my private parts," she said.
"I was so angry because this person has a wife and kids and I would never think about having anything with him."
Mary felt victimised and disrespected but never reported to human resources because "I didn't want him to lose his job".
Employees are protected against sexual harassment by section 6 of the Employment Act 2007.
Sexual harassment is referred to as any unwelcome physical, verbal or nonverbal conduct of a sexual nature.
During a sexual harassment forum, lawyer David Njoroge said when it comes to sexual harassment, victim reporting is still a challenge.
Njoroge adds that protection by the government is not there and the legal provisions are not working.
"When the cases are in court and there is no physical evidence, it becomes a case of 'he said, she said'," he said.
Njoroge added that employees need to be trained on office etiquette so they know what are the do's and don't's when dealing with colleagues.
The Employment Act provides that every employer engaging 20 or more employees shall develop and issue a policy statement against sexual harassment upon consultation with all employees or their representatives.
It defines sexual harassment, ensures the protection of all employees against sexual harassment in the workplace, and explains the procedures a complainant should follow to report sexual harassment.
Edited by T Jalio