Contrary to popular belief, sexual harassment at work isn’t just about sex; it’s also usually about a perpetrator creating a hostile working environment by abusing their power over the victim because of the victim’s gender.
While in most cases, sexual harassment perpetrators are men, women too can also harass men sexually when they’re in a position of power. Suppose you feel sexually harassed at work; you should take immediate action to help prevent the harasser from making your time at work unbearable.
What is sexual harassment?
Sexual harassment can manifest in various forms, creating a hostile atmosphere for victims. The most prevalent manifestation is verbal harassment, which can include but isn’t limited to unwelcome comments, advances and requests of a sexual nature. Whether verbal sexual harassment is explicit or subtle, it creates a hostile work environment nonetheless.
Harassers can also use actions like inappropriate gestures, leering or displaying explicit materials to perpetuate non-verbal harassment. Unwanted physical contact, such as touching, patting or blocking someone’s path, falls under physical harassment. This is a clear violation of personal boundaries and has the potential to create an adverse working environment for the victim.
Signs of sexual harassment
Recognizing the signs of unlawful harassment can help you to advocate for your rights. For starters, if you’re on the receiving end of unwanted advances, you may be a victim of sexual harassment. You may also be working in a hostile work environment if you keep being targeted with inappropriate jokes or sexual comments. Sexual harassers like to target their victims under the guise of joking when, in reality, they intend to make you uncomfortable and conscious of your gender or sexuality.
Reporting and handling sexual harassment
When faced with potential sexual harassment, taking swift and decisive action is crucial. It is generally a good idea to begin by leveraging the reporting mechanisms within the organization to bring Human Resources’ attention to your harassment.
You should expect the HR department to conduct thorough investigations into your case. This can involve interviewing all parties involved, collecting evidence and maintaining a fair and impartial process. If the investigation reveals harassment, HR should take appropriate disciplinary action. This could range from education and counseling to termination, depending on the severity of the offense. With that said, HR departments don’t always function as they should and pursuing legal action may prove necessary.
If you feel sexually harassed at work, recognizing the signs is the first step toward advocating for your rights. Don’t be afraid to enlist legal counsel to access guidance on the best course of action in your situation.