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What is Sexual Harassment?

What is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual Harassment… Explained

Many people do not understand what sexual harassment actually is. It runs the gambit from simple glances, to outright threats if sexual favors are not provided.  Often, the victim is afraid to report the problem for fear of losing their jobs, spouses, and lifestyle. Sexual harassment complaints amount to about one third of the complaints that are received by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in the United States. Many other countries do not have protections for employees from sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is often described as gender based actions of a sexual nature and that involve sexual stereotyping.

sexual harassmentSexual harassment can be between people of the opposite sex, or from people of the same sex. Many sexual harassment complaints are the result of coworkers who talk about sex while they are at work. Even if the discussion is not directed at the person who over hears the comments, they can make another coworker feel uncomfortable. We are living in an increasingly culturally diverse world. Some religions are very strict about the topic of sex. Many find discussing sexual conduct with anyone other than their spouse to be offensive. This is true of both men and women. A diverse working environment also means different social norms about sexual conduct and discussions of sexual conduct. Therefore, it is best to only discuss issues that are relevant to the job at hand when you are at work.

Direct & Indirect Forms of Harassment

Other less direct forms of sexual harassment involve using sexual stereotypes to define another gender. Stereotypes are behaviors that are associated with another person based solely on what another person thinks that person does because of what gender they are. It sounds confusing, but the truth is that some people, even today, associate particular tasks only to certain genders. One of the old stereotypes about women in the workplace is that they are secretaries, clerks, and lower level employees; but, never the boss. Some stereotypes also involve assumptions. If the assumption in the office is that the female employee makes the coffee that can be sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment can affect male employees as well. Female co-workers or supervisors who make the male employee feel uncomfortable with discussions about sex are just as guilty of sexual harassment as male offenders. If a person, either male or female, is treated differently based on their gender, they are the victims of sexual harassment.

What Should the Victim Do?

It is important for the victim to let the offender or offenders know that their behavior has made them uncomfortable. Often, this will put an end to the problem. However, if the behavior continues, or is replaced by ridicule because the person requested them to stop, the victim needs to take the issue up the chain of management. What if the problem is not a co-worker? What if the harasser is one of the managers, or even the owner or CEO of a company? How can a victim address this type of problem? The best approach is to contact an employment law attorney for assistance.

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