No one likes to talk about sexual harassment but it is something that happens in almost every office in the world. It can start off as harmless comments and innuendo, but it is a serious issue that must be addressed or there could be detrimental circumstances. As a former Human Resources Administrator, I was privy to many cases of sexual harassment by both genders and sexual preferences. It is unfortunately common in most offices, but the important thing is to know the signs and act immediately.
According to ERA (Equal Rights Advocates), sexual harassment is defined as the following:
Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination.The legal definition of sexual harassment is “unwelcomeverbal, visual, or physical conduct of a sexual nature that is severe or pervasive and affects working conditions or creates a hostile work environment.”
Sexual harassment can be verbal or non verbal, in written, physical, and visual forms. Sexual harassment is termed as UNWANTED advances. If it is mutual or reciprocated, it may be determined not to be sexual harassment. Know the difference, and make sure there are no blurred lines of communication where this is concerned.
I have been told many times that people feel uncomfortable reporting sexual harassment to management. No matter how this may make you feel, in order to deal with the problem properly, you must report it to your manager or HR office immediately. If you fail to report it or let the behavior linger, it could make it difficult later in case there is a law suit or action of some kind against the person harassing you.
Most businesses have a Sexual Harassment disclaimer of some sort in the employee handbook. Please consult this prior to reporting the problem.
Below are a list of things you should do if you are a victim of harassment:
- Report the incident(s) to the proper authorities and follow company procedure.
- Document all sexual harassment incidents. Write a report of the incidents and keep all evidence including emails, notes, etc.
- Make sure there are no blurred lines of communication when it comes to the person harassing you. Say NO clearly!
- Sexual harassment is a Federal crime. Report the incident to the proper authorities.
- Employers cannot fire you for reporting sexual harassment.
According to the ERA, Sexual Harassment can be a Federal offense:
The federal law prohibiting sexual harassment in the workplace is Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, as amended.The law makes certain employers responsible for preventing and stopping sexual harassment that occurs on the job.
Title VII applies to private and most public employers, labor organizations, employment agencies, and joint employer-union apprenticeship programs with 15 or more employees.
There may be additional state and local laws involving sexual harassment.
Working in your cubicle is supposed to be safe and free from harassment. If you are experiencing this type of activity in the workplace, report it and keep a paper trail. Don’t be afraid.
If you have any additional questions about sexual harassment or any other questions about workplace issues, feel free to email me at email@example.com
Very important information. Companies all too often try to sweep these incidents under the rug.