The enactment of legislation aimed at combating various forms of workplace harassment tackles the problem of power harassment for the first time — which thus far has essentially been left in the hands of employers. It is a step forward that the law defines what constitutes power harassment and requires businesses to take steps to prevent it. Although the legislation’s effectiveness is in question since it fails to provide for penalties against violators, employers need to realize the gravity of the problem and make steady efforts to eliminate it.

The legislation, which amends five different laws, defines power harassment as “excessive words and behavior by people who take advantage of their superior positions, harming the working environment.” It prohibits power harassment, sexual harassment and maternity harassment against women who are pregnant or have given birth, and bans employers from treating employees unfairly who have complained about alleged harassment by their bosses and colleagues — such as by firing them. While legislative steps have already been taken to require employers to deal with sexual harassment and maternity harassment, power harassment has now been added to the list of acts at workplaces against which they need to take preventive steps, such as by implementing a system to hear and act on victim complaints.

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