One of the biggest problems companies and organizations still face today is sexual harassment in the workplace. It has sadly become a common problem to have workers, especially women, complain about unwanted advances and inappropriate comments from colleagues. Below are ten common questions on issues about sexual harassment relating to employees, employers, and the workplace.
1. What is Sexual Harassment?
Sexual harassment is any unwanted sexually-charged behavior which offends, intimidates, or humiliates the victim. This can either be verbal or physical actions that are done without the other person’s consent. Acts of sexual harassment can affect the victim’s ability to work and can make his or her work environment hostile or feel unsafe.
Playful banter or jokes in the workplace may seem harmless, but comments or compliments with sexual undertones can be considered as sexual harassment.
2. What are the Two Types of Sexual Harassment?
Quid Pro Quo and the Hostile Working Environment are the two types of sexual harassment. The first type refers to sexual favors that are asked from the victim in exchange for benefits such as a job promotion, salary increase, and new opportunities. On the other hand, a hostile working environment is when inappropriate comments or advances become prevalent in the workplace, making it have a toxic ambiance that can affect the work of other employees.
3. What is Legally Considered Sexual Harassment?
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), harassing an employee or applicant based on sex is unlawful. Sexual harassment falls under this category and includes unwanted advances, requests, favors, and other sexually-charged behavior. All of these actions become harassment and can make the workplace of the victim feel uneasy.
4. What are the Effects of Sexual Harassments?
Victims can suffer from various emotional and psychological stress. Some of the side effects of the trauma may include depression, low-self esteem, insecurity, and anxiety, to name a few. Many of them may lose their motivation and interest in working, start performing poorly, or begin to neglect punctuality. The stress brought by the harassment can also lead the victim to resign from the position and switch to a completely different career.
5. How to Report Sexual Harassment?
There are three things you can do to report a sexual harassment incident at work:
- Confront the harasser: Tell him or her to stop their advances, inappropriate jokes, or behavior. This is the most effective way to handle the situation even though it may be challenging to assert yourself at first.
- Document the events: Having records of the incident is the most crucial step in your report. Gather as much evidence as you can to solidify your claim. You should acquire any inappropriate images, letters, or cards, and produce copies of these if you received any from the harasser. Write down the date when you received them or when they were posted as well.
- Escalate your complaint: After confronting the harasser and documenting the events, write a report to your supervisor or human resources department. Review the policies of your employee handbook to see how you can report a sexual harassment incident.
6. What Laws Protect Employees From Sexual Harassment?
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is the law that is being violated whenever incidents of sexual harassment occur. This law applies to employers with 15 or more employees and includes local, state, and federal governments. Along with these, the law also applies to employment agencies and labor organizations.
7. Are Both Male & Female Employees Protected from Being Sexually Harassed?
The law protects both male and female employees from sexual harassment. The EEOC recognizes that both men and women can be sexually harassed at the workplace. This case falls under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. For such incidents, the victim can also be of the same sex as the harasser.
8. Is Sexual Harassment Training Effective?
According to a 2016 report by the EEOC, the present training to prevent sexual harassment has been ineffective. One of the key problems that was evident based on the report is that many employers focus on avoiding liability instead of preventing sexual harassment actions.
However, this does not mean sexual harassment training should be removed from company and organization policies. Employers and employees must make an effort to change the culture of their workplace to create a safe environment.
9. What to Do When Accused of Sexual Harassment at Work?
When you are faced with sexual harassment allegations, there are things you can do whether your claims are true or false:
- Assist in the investigation: Companies are required to conduct investigations, making your cooperation a must to move the allegations further. Don’t hide anything and expose any of your misdeeds during the event, no matter how small they were.
- Apologize to your co-worker: Some remarks or jokes can be badly timed or unintentional which could lead to some forms of misunderstanding. You may have said something inappropriate or offensive to your co-worker. Whether it was intentional or not, say sorry rather than brushing it off and letting the situation escalate into something more severe.
- Confess any wrongdoing: There is no excuse for any insubordination when it comes to sexual harassment: if you did harass anyone, confess. There are times when employees also bend the rules of their HR policies, especially in dating. You may have also searched for indecent material on the web using your company computer. If you did any of these, confess these immediately rather than muddle the truth.
10. Should You Get A Sexual Harassment Lawyer?
Seeking professional legal advice from a competent sexual harassment lawyer is your best option to pursue your claims. There are many procedures to work on to get your claim going, while your harassers may also hire seasoned defense attorneys to protect them from liabilities. The best thing to do is to hire an experienced lawyer who is knowledgeable of employment and workplace harassment laws to help you uphold your rights and get proper compensation from your claims.