How Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Should Be Handled
Harassment in the workplace is any kind of unwelcome conduct, interaction, or treatment that is based on race, skin color, gender, religion, age national origin, or disability. Engaging in harassment in the workplace is a criminal act because it can violate any number of laws including the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
To address issues regarding sexual harassment in the workplace, it is mandated all employees should undergo sexual harassment training.
What Is Sexual Harassment?
In the eyes of the law, there are two types of harassment. The first is conduct that is so severe that an employee experiences a hostile work environment. Another type of harassment is when employees are expected to endure the conduct so they can keep their employment with the company.
While sexual harassment can target any of the protected classifications in the United States, what separates it from non-sexual harassment is the conduct itself. Specifically, sexually harassing behavior includes verbal communication and physical contact that is of a sexual nature, requests for sexual favors, and sexual advances.
Quid pro quo sexual harassment is when an employee is expected to participate in sexual acts in order to get hired or maintain employment.
Examples of Sexual Harassment
The first step in stopping sexual harassment in the workplace is to understand exactly what it is and is not. If any of the following conduct is unwelcome, it is considered sexual harassment:
- Touching that is sexual in nature
- Sexually explicit gestures
- Sending suggestive emails or texts
- Sharing sexually explicit pictures or videos
- Repeatedly asking for dates
- Making lewd jokes
- Following a co-worker around and paying excessive attention to them
It is important to remember that just because an employee participates in any of these behaviors, that they are subjected to, does not mean that they are welcome behaviors. The reason for going along with unwelcome sexual attention can be complicated and dependent on the circumstances. Therefore, a reporting employee should never be dismissed simply because they appeared to want the behavior.
What To Do if You are Being Sexually Harassed
There are sexual harassment policies in place to help if you are a victim.
If you are being sexually harassed at work, take careful notes about incidents and when they occurred. The next step is reporting the sexual harassment at work. You can go to your supervisor or the supervisor of the person who you are reporting. Some workplaces have someone specifically designated as a liaison in handling such issues. If you are unsure of where to turn, your Human Resources department will be able to guide you.
Remember, there are laws against retaliation for reporting sexual harassment.
Once you have reported the harassment at your place of work, you may decide to take it to the next level. in this case, The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the federal agency responsible for investigating charges of job discrimination related to sex in workplaces of 15 or more employees. Each state also has agencies that enforce sexual harassment laws.
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