Zero Tolerance For Sexual Harassment In The Workplace
It is well known that sexual harassment in the workplace is prohibited. It is an action that is treated more harshly in all areas of society now, and people are much more aware of it when it occurs. Unfortunately, sexual harassment at work still happens and may leave victims wondering what they can do about it.
At my Columbus-based firm, DeWitt Law, LLC, I do not tolerate any form of sexual harassment. My name is Michael W. DeWitt, and I am a lawyer with over 20 years of experience fighting for the rights of employees who have been sexually harassed, wrongfully terminated or involved in adverse employment law situations. I work to protect my clients, their families, their livelihoods and their futures.
The Forms That Sexual Harassment Can Take
Sexual harassment comes in many ways, shapes and forms at work. These include:
- Unwanted sexual advances: These include any unwelcome sexual touching, kissing or groping.
- Requests for sexual favors: These include any requests for sexual favors in exchange for job benefits, a promotion or other favorable treatment.
- Other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature: This includes any unwelcome sexual comments, jokes or gestures.
- Displaying sexually suggestive objects or materials: This includes displaying pornographic images or videos in the workplace.
- Retaliation: This includes any negative action taken against an employee who has complained about sexual harassment.
Additionally, sexual harassment tends to take one of the following two forms:
- Quid pro quo sexual harassment: This typically occurs when someone in a position of power uses their authority to make sexual advances or demands sexual favors in exchange for something, such as a job promotion or a good grade.
- Hostile environment sexual harassment: This typically occurs when the conduct of one or more individuals creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment. This can include making sexual jokes or comments, displaying sexually explicit material or touching someone inappropriately.
It is important to note that not all sexual harassment situations are sexual in nature. According to the Ohio statute, sexual harassment also occurs when someone is targeted with hostility due to their gender.
What Are The Effects Of Sexual Harassment?
Sexual harassment can significantly negatively impact the victim’s physical and emotional health as well as their work performance and relationships. Some of the effects of sexual harassment can include:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Low self-esteem
- Difficulty sleeping
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty forming or maintaining relationships
- Decreased productivity at work
- Increased absenteeism
These negative consequences can make your life difficult at work and may continue presenting challenges long after you have clocked out for the day.
Taking A Stand Against Sexual Harassment
Though you may be frustrated, frightened and intimidated if you are being sexually harassed, know that you have options that include the following:
- Do not be afraid to report the behavior to your superiors. A report must be made to show that you made your employer aware of the sexual harassment that was or is occurring. Without this, it is extremely difficult to take action.
- Follow your company’s procedures for reporting. Review your employee handbook or other materials to understand how to make a report.
- Ensure that there is documentation of the report and the harassing behavior. It is always good to have a paper trail when serious allegations are involved. Not only can this support you in your claim to your employer, but it can also help me structure the case as your legal advocate.
- Keep the evidence separate and safe. The documentation you keep regarding the harassment must not be saved at work or on your work computer. Your computer and workstation are the property of your employer, and, sadly, things have a way of going missing.
- Do not quit your job. You do not have to stay in that position forever. However, if you leave your job without taking the proper steps, it may negatively affect any sexual harassment claim you have made.
Sexual harassment can turn a dream job into a nightmare. It is essential to talk to an experienced attorney who can give you the support and guidance you need as you go through this challenging situation.