The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
Sexual Harassment At Work
Sexual harassment is the unwanted remarks, comments, sexual advances, or anything involving sexual innuendo towards the same sex or opposite sex, which can occur in the workplace. Sexual harassment in the workplace is more common than most people realize. Sexual harassment may involve a man towards a woman, a man towards a man, a woman towards a man, or a woman towards a woman. It is normally taken lightly at first by many women or men and brushed off as flirting or common social behavior. However, unwanted and uninvited sexual advances or sexual comments are a form of sexual harassment which is unacceptable, whether it is taken seriously or lightly. Sexual harassment may lead to many other issues and also make the person doing it believe he or she is not doing anything wrong.
If a boss is sexually harassing his employees, he may deduct pay when the employee does not satisfy his needs by flirting back or enjoying it. The employee may continue to be hit on because the boss may feel he or she is welcome to continue his or her actions. The boss feels as if they hold something over the employee because they are directly responsible for their paycheck, so the employee must abide by the wishes of the boss. The employee fears having a deduction in his or her pay, so they let the action continue.
If a co-worker is sexually harassing another co-worker, he or she may get away with it at first, especially if no action is taken by the co-worker. If a boss notices this and does nothing, than the boss is just as responsible for the sexual harassment as the advancing co-worker is, because he is ignoring the advances. A co-worker may feel he or she is entitled if no actions are taken. He or she may feel that because they are in the office everyday with the other person for eight hours, they become comfortable with the other person and may start jokingly making remarks or advances towards the other co-workers.
Sexual harassment may also come in the form of lewd comments, such as an office filled with males, who tend to talk about sexual activity or innuendo, and if no female is present, the male workers may conform and feel comfortable with making those comments. If only one or two females are present, they may not even notice they are doing it because they feel it is normal. The behavior may offend both men and women who are listening and may feel it is inappropriate. Silence allows the behavior to continue making everyone feel it is okay to continue making sexual remarks, comments, or innuendo around the office. Whether one person is doing it or multiple people are doing it, the behavior is unacceptable in the workplace.
The workplace is a place of professionalism, business, and productivity. Sexual harassment can lead to lost productivity, lawsuits, and even a complete business shutdown if it is not stopped immediately. Most companies should have programs in place to cover sexual harassment and train employees on recognizing it and not doing it. If an employee is caught sexually harassing another employee, than they must face the consequences, which may result in temporary suspension or permanent leave.
If a boss is sexually harassing his or her employees, an employee may be tempted to quit immediately, but will probably not in order to continue making a living. It is sometimes harder to know where to turn to when the boss is sexually harassing an employee, because the boss is the only one to go to when there are problems. Unfortunately, the boss is not someone to go to to report sexual harassment if it is the boss doing the sexual harassment himself or herself.
The employee should review the policy or handbook regarding sexual harassment in the workplace. While a single incident will probably not help any employee’s case and could be easily dismissed, an employee must have evidence that can be presented to a lawyer or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and it must be able to be proven in court that their boss is sexually harassing them.
Examples of devices that can be used for recording sexual harassment by a boss are an audio recorder, video camera, or webcam. While an employee may be able to get a written statement from other co-workers, the boss may hire a good lawyer and get the case dismissed. If the employee does want to take it to court, than they should have concrete evidence that can be heard or seen by an attorney.
If the employee does not want to go to court but cannot tolerate the sexual harassment any longer, it may be time to quit. It is unlikely a person will keep their job after taking a boss to court, but it does happen where the individual might win or lose the case, and still keep their job. It is highly recommended that if sexual harassment has occurred and legal matters came into play, win or lose, that the individual not keep their job. After all, if safety is a concern in the workplace, than all safety measures should be considered including leaving the threat.
As far as aftermath of reporting the sexual harassment case, the former employee may report it to the Better Business Bureau, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and even write about it on Confessions of the Professions or other sites such as Craigslist may be considered, in order to prevent other people from having to go through the same or similar horrible situation.
You do have the legal right as a human being to work without being sexually harassed. If you are experiencing sexual harassment in any form in your place of work, please report it immediately to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. It is highly advised that you have some form of physical proof. Heresy can easily be dismissed, so try to establish some proof before you report the issue. If you do decide that the only way to solve the issue is by suing and taking the person to court, than familiarize yourself with 40 Courtroom Television Lessons in order to know what you have to do before you go to court, how to dress, and how to behave.
The infographic covers in-depth information regarding sexual harassment.
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MEMO: TO ALL EMPLOYEES
Bolt Insurance Agency
Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
A look at just what constitutes sexual harassment in the workplace, how prevalent it is, what the consequences are, and how to protect your business.
What is Sexual Harassment?
One of the most challenging issues pertaining to sexual harassment in the workplace is that many people are still unaware of just what constitutes sexual harassment.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 defines it as occurring, “when one employee makes continued, unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, to another employee against his or her wishes.”
“Harassment does not have to be of a sexual nature, however, and can include offensive remarks about a person’s sex. For example, it is illegal to harass a woman by making offensive comments about women in general.”
Specific examples could include:
- Unwanted jokes, gestures, comments, and repartee
- Physical/bodily contact such as patting, grabbing, or interfering with an employee’s ability to move
- Constant and repeated requests for a date or unwanted flirting
- Spreading or posting sexual or degrading e-mails or pictures around the workplace, including your own workspace
- Displaying sexually suggestive objects, pictures or posters in the workplace
- Playing sexually suggestive movies, music, games, or video clips in the workplace
How Prevalent is Sexual Harassment in the Workplace?
In 2010, there were 11,717 charges of sexual harassment in the United States.
2006 – 12,025
2007 – 12,510
2008 – 13,867
2009 – 12,696
2010 – 11,717
Of those charges…
83.6% were from women
17.4% were from men*
*up from 11.6% in 1997
Which yielded $48.8 million in non-litigation monetary benefits to the victims.
Which breaks down to $4,130 per case of sexual harassment.
When factoring litigation against the employer, the amount can easily reach into the millions per case as there is NO CAP on the amount an employee can sue for sexual harassment.
However, as large as these figures are, it is estimated that only 5 – 15% of victims formally report harassment.
Potential harassment claims waiting to happen.
What you can do to protect your business from sexual harassment claims?
√ Institute a zero-tolerance policy.
√ Raise awareness in your workplace by mandatory employee training.
√ As the business owner, make yourself fully aware of the law so you are able to handle any situation that arises.
√ Take all reports of harassment from your employees seriously. Act immediately to investigate and resolve the situation and make your workplace feel safe for those affected.
√ Document all reported cases in the workplace down to the smallest detail in case it does become a larger problem.
√ But most importantly, protect yourself from the situations that do become full-blown by having proper sexual harassment insurance coverage as part of your Employment Practices Liability Insurance Policy.
Bolt Insurance Agency