A small amendment with big legislative effects in workplace sexual harassment law

Parliament discussing small change from ‘and’ to ‘or’ in workplace sexual harassment law that could have a significant effect in the delivery of justice

Parliament is discussing a small change in the workplace sexual harassment law that could shift the way judges rule on harassment cases in court.

The amendment, tabled by Justice Minister Jonathan Attard, would change the Maltese translation of the law so that a person can only be found guilty of sexual harassment in the workplace if the behaviour is “offensive, humiliating OR intimidating”.

As the law stands now, a person can only be found guilty if their behaviour is “offensive, humiliating AND intimidating”.

The amendment comes after a court trial last March, in which a police officer was cleared of sexually harassing a 19-year-old colleague. Despite having passed comments on her physique, placing his hand under her when she sat in the passenger seat, and trying to touch her leg in the car, the judge said she could not deem this sexual harassment because all three factors had to be proven together: offensive, humiliating and intimidating.

When Attard moved the second reading of the amendment in Parliament, he said the bill “can have a significant impact in the delivery of justice”. He also said the English text reflected the legislator’s intentions better, therefore choosing to amend the Maltese version only.

Nationalist MP Darren Carabott told the House that it is important, as legislators, to have “zero tolerance for sexual harassment in the workplace”.

He also appealed to the government to approve his party’s Private Members’ Bill that would make it obligatory for companies to have an anti-sexual harassment policy in place.