Sexual harassment can happen in any work environment, whether you work in an office or restaurant. Harassment can come in different forms and can happen to a man or woman. Just because someone is dressed or looks a certain way does not permit another person to make them feel uncomfortable.
Below we will discuss what sexual harassment is, some scenarios, and what you should do if you are sexually harassed in the workplace.
What is Sexual Harassment?
According to the NYC Human Rights Law, all individuals are protected from discrimination based on gender, including sexual harassment. Sexual harassment according to New York City, is any unwelcome physical or verbal behavior based on gender and can include a variety of acts. If someone makes another person uncomfortable with sexual jokes, makes sexual remarks, or asks unwarranted personal questions, these are forms of sexual harassment.
Deciding whether an act is sexual harassment is as simple as asking two questions. Was the act unwelcome? That would constitute harassment. Was the act based on gender? The wording is a little confusing, but this is how NYC constitutes sexual harassment. In short, if you were to do it to one gender, would you do it to the other? Equal treatment should cover the entire workplace, especially how we treat one another.
Sexual Harassment Scenarios
New York state has a great section of frequently asked questions here that include some scenarios regarding sexual harassment in the workplace. Below are some examples of obvious and less obvious workplace sexual harassment.
A group of coworkers is telling obscene jokes back and forth in the breakroom. You do not want to tell them directly to stop but feel uncomfortable taking a break there. It is their breakroom, too, why not let them use it and take a break at your desk?
Your supervisor compliments a coworker on his outfit. As he walks away, she whistles suggestively. The sound makes Jim uncomfortable, but he says nothing because Janet is his boss. Besides, he’s a guy, they can’t be victims of sexual harassment.
During a work meeting, your boss comes over and puts a hand on your shoulder. While speaking to the rest of the group, they begin to rub your shoulders. As you look around, you notice a few uncomfortable looks and try not to look too uncomfortable yourself. You stay silent and let the meeting continue.
A friend mentions another coworker blocking the exit to their office as they were attempting to leave. They were propositioned with a date and felt they could not refuse.
The group of coworkers should be spoken to. Your supervisor should be spoken to. Your boss should be spoken to. Your coworker should be spoken to. If you see sexual harassment, you should speak out. If it happens to you, stand up for yourself. The city and state of New York both have impressive ideas when it comes to sexual harassment, and you should not let it slide simply because of someone’s gender or position in a company.
Again, sexual harassment is any gender-related situation that makes people uncomfortable. There are systems in place that help victims and those who report harassment. If you see it, speak to someone because if there is one victim, there may be others. It might be hard to report harassment, but it is incredibly important to do so.
Fight for your Rights
When you are faced with sexual harassment, it can be overwhelming. Unfortunately, some see it as innocent behavior that should not require reprimand. People will say “boys will be boys” or the victim “wanted it” and wave away the accusations. It can be a scary thought, but there are options even if your immediate supervisor refuses action.
One option is to go to a higher up. When you feel your accusations are not being heard, the first course of action should be to go to your supervisor’s superior or human resources department. Should this course fail, there are still lifelines available through the Division of Human Rights in New York. This division reinforces that people should be treated with respect and takes sexual harassment in the workplace very seriously.
If your office does not have workplace sexual harassment training, it could be a good idea to bring that up in your next office meeting. Many companies offer courses regarding this matter. One of the top providers of courses on sexual harassment is Traliant. They have a tried training method that works with a variety of industries. You can read more about their training courses and find what sorts of information you should be looking for in a good training program.
All industries benefit from sexual harassment training. When people understand how they hurt others with simple jokes, they learn to better themselves. A company that works well together works to make each other comfortable.