Sexual harassment is defined as an uninvited sexual advance, unsolicited request for sexual favors, or other unwanted sexual activity that causes a person to feel humiliated, embarrassed, or frightened.
According to a 2016 research by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, almost 75% of employees who encounter workplace harassment do not report it to a manager, superior, or union representative.
One of the main reasons is that people are afraid of retaliation at work. Another cause for underreporting might be that workers who are subjected to improper behavior are unsure whether the behavior crosses the line with criminal harassment.
Types of Workplace Sexual Harassment
There are two sorts of sexual harassment in the workplace:
- Hostile working environment
Sexual harassment in a hostile work environment can take two forms:
Uninvited sexually suggestive or insulting statements, persistent and unwelcome invitations for dates, obscene gestures, unpleasant touches, jokes or pranks, threatening actions, or pornographic materials are made against you by someone you work with. Because of your gender, this conduct is geared at you (because you are a woman, a man, or transgender). These infractions must be serious and/or widespread.
This indicates that the harassment happens frequently enough to harm your capacity to do your work effectively or that the degree of hostility is so severe that even one event can impair your potential to do your work effectively.
You must also establish that the harassment was caused by your employer (either directly or indirectly). This incorporates actions taken by customers or vendors of your employer. If one of your colleagues or a regular client makes an unpleasant comment, you must demonstrate how your workplace is to blame for their bad behavior.
Another form of hostile work environment harassment is when your employer offers you less favorable working terms than your colleagues of different genders merely because of your gender identification. Discriminatory hiring practices, hours, pay, rewards, work schedules, task assignments, vacation or sick leave benefits, job appraisal, discipline, and termination are all examples of discrimination.
- Quid pro quo
When a superior or other employer requests or expects sexual contact from you in exchange for job rewards or promotions, this is known as Quid pro quo sexual harassment.
Even though you didn’t say “no,” sexual harassment might still occur. If you were compelled to have sexual relations because you were ashamed to say no, or because you were frightened of losing your job, or because you were terrified of being reprimanded at work, your sexual contact can be termed as criminal harassment. Your gender identity does not have to be the sole reason you were harassed, but it must be a significant element of the cause you were harassed.
Inappropriate Conduct That Can be Termed as Sexual Harassment
Unwelcome kissing, touching of the breasts or private parts, butt smacking, rape, other acts of sexual assault, demanding sexual favors, making sexually explicit remarks, unprompted messages, sexually provocative gestures, catcalls, ogling, or cornering someone in a confined space are all examples of sexual harassment in the workplace.
While blatant types of sexual harassment still occur in the workplace, more subtle kinds of harassment are becoming more prevalent. Any of the following activities, for example, might be considered sexual harassment if they occur frequently or are serious enough to make an employee feel uncomfortable, frightened, or distracted to the point of interfering with their work:
- Remarks on an employee’s attractiveness regularly.
- In front of a coworker, remarking on the attractiveness of others.
- In front of a coworker, talking about one’s sex life.
- Enquiring about the sex lives of a coworker.
- At the office, sharing nude or bikini images of women or shirtless males.
- Making jokes about sexuality.
- Sending obscenely sexually provocative texts or emails.
- Unwanted sexual or romantic gifts are left behind.
- Disseminating sexual rumors about a coworker.
To be considered a hostile work environment, the behavior must be objectionable to both the employee and a reasonable person in the same situation. A female employee, for example, may feel deeply insulted if a male coworker compliments her hairstyle and opens the door for her on the way to work. However, the typical individual is unlikely to judge that behavior to be harassing in and of itself.
How to Deal with Harassment at Work
If you believe you have been harassed at work because of sexual or non-sexual harassment, you can submit a harassment complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
However, to submit a valid claim, you must be able to show that a) your employer attempted to address the harassing behavior and b) the harassing colleague refused to stop and comply.
It’s critical that you notify the harassment to your company’s human resources department as soon as possible, as well as keep meticulous records of the dates, times, and nature of the events. If attempts to resolve the matter fail, you must submit a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within 180 days, either by letter, in person, or by phoning 800-669-4000.
What Should My Company Do?
- Your business must educate all workers, supervisors, and agents on workplace sexual harassment and how the company will handle complaints.
- Your business must have systems and procedures to avoid sexual harassment in the workplace, as well as the ability to monitor and enforce such policies. It is insufficient to just have rules and processes in place. Employees must be informed of them, and the company must implement them.
- Your company should have clear reporting processes in place so that you can simply report sexual harassment in the workplace.
Other Information about Sexual Harassment
Here are some more statistics concerning sexual harassment to keep in mind:
- Harassment can be caused by sexist statements and actions
It’s a prevalent misperception that harassment has to be sexual to be criminal. Inappropriate behavior based on a worker’s gender that is severe or pervasive enough to produce an unpleasant work environment is likewise unlawful under Title VII. If women are pushed to become more “feminine” or stay true to other gender stereotypes, are shut out of critical meetings, and have their efforts undermined by their male employees, for example, then that said workplace may be hostile.
- Customers or clients harass you sexually
The majority of individuals are aware that sexual harassment by a boss or coworker is against the law. An employer, on the other hand, has a responsibility under Title VII to safeguard its workers against sexual harassment by third parties. Customers, clients, vendors, business partners, and others are all included. As long as the employer is aware of or should be aware of the harassment, it must take measures to stop it.
- Sexual harassment has no distinction between genders
Most people imagine a male harassing a female when they think of sexual harassment. Though this is by far the most common scenario, males have been harassed in several instances. Same-sex harassment is illegal whether it is committed by a male against a male or a female against a female. It is also not required that the harassment is fuelled by sexual attraction. It just has to be predicated on the victim’s gender.
In a Nutshell
All workers, from leadership to entry-level or hourly workers, should be aware of what constitutes workplace harassment and should prevent or report such activities if they occur. Companies may easily do this by providing frequent sexual harassment training and enforcing stringent anti-harassment rules, as well as providing a safe working environment for all employees.