In a world where publicizing the intimacy of what goes on behind closed doors is both easy and pervasive, employers are urged to audit their anti-harassment processes and employees are encouraged to come forward if they have experienced or are experiencing sexual harassment at work.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission enforces federal equal employment opportunity (EEO) laws, which strive to create harassment-free workplaces by ensuring that employers fulfil their duties under federal legislation, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Among a vast array of other things, these laws require that:
- Employers do not condone sexual harassment in hiring, firing, compensation, promotion, layoff, recruitment, training, benefits, etc.
- Employers do post notices visible to all employees outlining their rights under EEO laws
Sexual harassment is offensive behavior towards someone based on their gender, sexual orientation or sex. Harassment can be a wide range of actions. For instance, bullying, whether physical, verbal or nonverbal; targeted pestering; stalking; antagonistic teasing; name calling; damage to person or property; threatening or derogatory comments. Add sexual assault, including unwanted indecent touching and rape; lewd gestures and exposure. These all fit under the harassment umbrella. Unwelcome sexual advances, request of sexual favors and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when:
- Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment
- Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual
- Such conduct has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment
Although most people thing of sexual harassment as something that happens only to women, men can be sexually harassed as well.
Clients have reported that being sexually harassed can devastate the victim’s psychological health, physical well-being and vocational development. Women who have been harassed often change their jobs, career goals, job assignments or educational pursuits. In addition, women have reported psychological and physical reactions to being harassed that are similar to reactions to other forms of stress and abuse.
Sexual harassment, especially in the workplace has gained increasing recognition in every society, causing employers to wake up to the potential of it going on amongst co-workers, supervisors and subordinates.
Employers: audit your policies now, revise them as necessary, implement them uniformly across genders and treat every case seriously.
Employees: it can be scary to say #metoo; however, it is important that you let someone know about your difficulties before it goes too far, or before someone suffers the same abuse.