Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
By Maui Reyes
According to the EEOC, 40% of all working women claim to have been sexually harassed at some point in their career. Obviously, sexual harassment, although deemed as taboo and obviously inappropriate behavior, occurs more often than we perceive it to be.
If you or anyone you know has been sexually harassed in the workplace, the first step is to come forward with it. Report to your supervisor, employer, or to the human resources department. Many victims of sexual harassment are afraid to come forward because they fear they will lose their job, won't get support from their boss, or be labeled as a tattletale. Unfortunately, many women make the mistake of keeping mum about these events, which only causes them stress, anxiety, and other emotional feelings that could affect their performance in the workplace.
First, make sure you know what kind of harassment you were exposed to. Some examples are being the subject of or being told sexual jokes, being stared at in a malicious manner, cat calls/whistles, offensive, derogatory and pornographic materials displayed before you, being cornered or blocked/followed all the time, being pressures for sexual activities, or being sexually assaulted.
However, there are other events that are not considered as sexual harassment. Mutual flirting, having consensual sexual relations, and display affection between friends (as long as both are comfortable with their actions) are not considered sexual harassment.
When you have reported to your employer, he must be able to give you options on how to go about your case. Your company might have a policy for sexual harassment cases, and this must be made clear to you and your harasser (If you are an employer and do not have any sexual harassment policies at your company, establish one now. A zero-tolerance sexual harassment policy keeps you, your employees, and your company's reputation safe.)
While you are no way required by law to meet with your harasser, it is best to settle with the harasser with a mediator (the mediator should often be the boss). Make your employer talk to your harasser, and, if you do not intend to communicate with your harasser, make your employer report back to you.
Make sure to keep records of all contacts you've had not only with your harasser, but also with your employer. Records pertaining to your harasser (log in the date of the harassment, place, and time) is important evidence that the event happened. As for the records of your employer, if you feel that your boss is not taking your case seriously, you can also present evidence of why you think so.
If you believe your case deserves more attention, contact a lawyer.