Workplace sexual harassment can sometimes be difficult to identify, and once recognized it can be very uncomfortable to confront. Many workers are not even aware of the fact that they have been sexually harassed. Once identified, workplace harassment lawyers can help resolve the situation, and can provide closure for victims
How to Identify Workplace Harassment
It can often be difficult to identify workplace harassment. Coworkers can often have raunchy tastes in humor and behavior, but according to the Human Right Commission, harassment “involves a coworker or supervisor using authority or physical power in a way which causes another person to be humiliated, embarrassed, or distressed. Sexual harassment is unwelcome or offensive verbal or physical conduct.” If a coworker or supervisor is making you uncomfortable with offensive or lewd jokes, you are a victim of verbal sexual harassment. It’s important to remember that it is your right to work in a harassment-free environment. Workplace harassment is not uncommon, but it is unlawful.
Different Forms of Workplace Harassment
There are a variety of forms workplace harassment can take, and victims are not always aware that perpetrators are acting unlawfully. Quid Pro Quo harassment takes the form of an exchange: “I’ll do something for you if you do something for me.” This is one of the more blatant forms of harassment, and is easily identified. However, this can be a terribly victimizing situation if someone with more authority, like a supervisor, wants to trade sexual services with someone of lesser power—an employee. This type of harassment often includes a threat if the victim does not comply with the exchange.
A Hostile Environment occurs when a worker is subjected to a sexualized work environment. This is a more subtle category of harassment that includes lewd jokes, sexual comments, sexually offensive emails, or sexualized comments (which can often take the form of compliments). A workplace is considered a hostile environment when there have been repeated offenses.
Victims of Harassment
There are over two million cases of workplace harassment each year, and unfortunately, anyone can be a victim. As many as 31 percent of women claimed to have been harassed at work, while seven percent of males claimed to have been harassed. One-hundred percent of women claim their harasser was a man, while 59 percent of men claimed their harasser was a woman. Harassment can come from someone with more power than the victim, like a supervisor, or someone who is on equal footing with the victim.
What Can Legal Action Resolve?
It can be incredibly painful and awkward to confront workplace harassment, but it’s important to remember that it is against the law to harass. However, sexual harassment lawyers can investigate your case, and help enforce Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits workplace harassment. Working with a harassment lawyer can empower the victim and correct the situation.
Sexual harassment is a painful and, often, embarrassing situation to overcome, but with the correct tools workers can identify their harassment, and take action against perpetrators.