Five Common Questions About Sexual Harassment in the Workplace, Answered

Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Sexual harassment in the workplace is not a novel concept, but recent news stories and events have amplified the issue. With the increased awareness brought on by the #MeToo movement, employers have become increasingly aware. Moreover, they want to know how to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.

What Is Workplace Sexual Harassment?

In February 2018, NPR shared a 2018 survey conducted by Stop Street Harassment that found that “81% of women and 43% of men had experienced some form of sexual harassment in the workplace.” While employers understand this is a problem they must address, not everyone may fully understand the definition of workplace sexual harassment.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines workplace sexual harassment as “Any form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”

Workplace sexual harassment encompasses a variety of sexual misconduct that features a sexual component as a means of control or intimidation and, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCLS), the victim, as well as the harasser, may be a woman or a man. Harassment may occur between a manager and an employee or between two employees. Essentially, any configuration of this behavior falls under the category of sexual misconduct.

The perpetrator commits sex discrimination through unwelcome sexual advances, improper language and discussions of a sexual nature, requests or demands for sexual favors, or any other physical or verbal conduct that explicitly or implicitly alludes to sex.

The target of sexual harassment often worries that their job is in jeopardy if they do not comply, which can lead to problems focusing on work. All of this ultimately leads to the employee’s compromised sense of well-being and inability to function properly and meet productivity. They may feel trapped in an offensive or hostile environment if they do not comply with the offender’s advances. Ultimately, such an environment chips away at a positive work environment for everyone.

Five FAQs to Assist Employers in Preventing Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Dedicated employees are invaluable to employers, so it is critical to institute a zero-tolerance sexual harassment policy in the workplace to protect everyone. Posting a set of five key FAQs on digital message boards sends a clear message that sexual misconduct is unwelcome.

1. Should I Report Occurrences of Sexual Misconduct?

Sometimes, the most efficient path to resolution is to tell the person making sexual advances that you have no interest. However, if they persist, cause you to feel intimidated or threatened, or hold a position of power, you should report the incident to the HR department. Document the incident, or incidents, immediately to provide an accurate description of what happened, and when and where it happened within the workplace.

2. Should I Quit?

All too often, a sexual harasser can make employees feel so uncomfortable that they consider leaving their position. Before doing anything drastic, reach out to HR for guidance and resolution. It is important to report incidents to allow an investigation of the situation and provide a fair decision for all parties.

3. What Is Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment?

Any time that a supervisor, manager, or anyone holding authority over a person’s job requests or demands sexual favors to keep a job, earn a promotion or raise, or any other trade is quid pro quo sexual harassment. They may explicitly make a demand for sexual acts, or they may make implicit overtures that include grabbing, touching, fondling, or uncomfortable staring or other improper eye contact to achieve something essential to your role in the organization.

4. What Is a “Hostile Environment” In Relation to Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment itself constitutes a hostile environment. When employees need to ward off or ignore sexual advances or requests for sexual favors, they automatically find themselves amid workplace conflict since these situations rarely signify attraction—which is problematic in its own right. In a hostile environment, often based on power dynamics, targeted employees continuously worry that the offender will cost them their job or even physically harm them.

5. Who Can Become a Victim of Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassers may choose anyone as their victim, whether the person is the same or different gender, or the person is a subordinate or superior.

Consequences of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Workplace harassment is problematic for everyone involved, including the organization. The business may be found liable for any harm caused to the victim, or victims, of sexual workplace harassment. If the employer does nothing to prevent sexual misconduct or does nothing after receiving reports, they may face court-imposed penalties. Further, the business is likely to gain a poor reputation for protecting the rights of employees to work in a safe environment.

Deliver important workplace messages that help your employees feel informed and safe about issues like sexual misconduct in the workplace with Marlin’s Electronic Communication Station (ECS). To learn more, contact us today.

February 28, 2020

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