The #MeToo movement has raised awareness about the seriousness of sexual harassment in the workplace. Just how many people walking among us are victims of workplace harassment?
Research continues to show that workplace sexual harassment affects women more than it affects men, with twice as many women being harassed sexually at the workplace.
Such harassment comes from colleagues and bosses who, through their words and actions, create a hostile working environment, often causing the victims to shy away from responsibilities, growth, and, in severe cases, job loss.
Workplace sexual harassment refers to unwelcome verbal or physical behavior based on sex, gender, gender identity, race, disability, religion, pregnancy, age, nationality, or color.
Sexual harassment takes various forms, including:
- Verbal sexual harassment
- Unwelcome sexual touching
- Physical stalking
- Sexual assault
- Cyber-sexual harassment
- Unwanted genital flashing
Workplace sexual harassment has adverse effects on your mental health and productivity, which is why you must report the offense and speak with a sexual harassment lawyer. The attorney can help you determine whether the actions fit the definition of workplace harassment.
The actions by the perpetrator become unlawful if:
- You have to ensure the harassing behavior as a prerequisite to your continued employment.
- The severity or pervasiveness of the conduct would lead a reasonable person to consider the workplace as a hostile, intimidating, or abusive environment.
A Growing Concern
Sexual harassment continues as a challenge in the workplace. It is primarily directed against women, but that does not minimize the fact that men as well are victims of workplace sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment costs the victim, the society, and the employer alike and is, therefore, a concern to all.
The effects of sexual harassment on the victim include:
- Psychological suffering (reduced motivation, humiliation, low self-esteem)
- Behavioral changes such as self-isolation, declining relationships
- Alcohol and drug abuse due to physical and mental stress
- Foregoing career opportunities
The effects on the employer include:
- Decreased productivity of his or her enterprise due to impaired judgment, poor teamwork, absenteeism and demotivation
- Reduced interest in filling for positions where the applicants fear sexual harassment
- A hostile work environment which hinders growth and innovation
The society also suffers negatively due to workplace sexual harassment. Some of the effects include:
- Rehabilitation and reintegration costs, often over a long time
- Legal and criminal justice expenses
- Undermined access by women to high-status career opportunities in traditionally male-dominated careers
Reporting Sexual Harassment
81% of women have endured some form of sexual harassment, with 38% of them suffering workplace sexual harassment. Out of these women, about 10% filed an official report with the authorities. The majority tend to adjust their lives to avoid harassment in the future.
Fear, anger, embarrassment, and lack of support are some of the factors that hinder the reporting of sexual harassment.
The first step towards reducing the prevalence of sexual harassment and creating safer workplaces for people of diverse gender identities, orientations, race, physical appearance, etc. is opening the discussion about sexual harassment.
Silence about the prevalence of the action often encourages the perpetrator to continue with their actions, often across different victims.
You can deal with the problem internally before you proceed to additional measures, such as reporting to the relevant labor and employment authorities.
Speaking to the perpetrator about their behavior, preferably in writing, can help reduce the chances of the offense recurring. However, if the harassment continues, you can inform your supervisor, employer, or the human resource department.
Companies have existing policies that will guide you on how to handle workplace sexual harassment. If you cannot solve the issue internally, it might be time to contact an attorney.
Talking to a sexual harassment lawyer could help you gain confidence in reporting the offense and protecting your rights and dignity.
While the lawyer will not file the case immediately, he or she could direct you through the proper channels of reporting the offense to your employer.
He or she could also help you in filing a lawsuit or official complaint against the perpetrator. You can file a complaint through several channels including:
- Your employer
- Through the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing
- The Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
These organizations will receive your complaint and might launch an investigation and pursue legal action against the offender.
Contact a Sexual Harassment Attorney for Help
Thanks to the Me Too movement, more employers are taking significant measures to protect employees from sexual harassment. They are providing better policies and procedures to encourage reporting of such incidents while discouraging workplace sexual harassment.
However, you can take steps to protect yourself by contacting a sexual harassment lawyer to help you guide you through the process of identifying and reporting workplace sexual harassment.