Tackling Sexual Harassment: What to do if you are being Sexually Harassed at Work?

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Tackling Sexual Harassment: What to do if you are being Sexually Harassed at Work?

Being silent could be mistaken as a sign of weakness, so, speak up against the inhuman behavior of sexual harassment!

The definition of the sexual harassment, as per the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission depicts,

Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when

1. submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual's employment,

2. submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individuals, or

3. such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment. (29 C.F.R. § 1604.11[1980])

Its simple meaning is that any unwelcoming or unwanted advances by a person that makes you feel uncomfortable through their action/s can be termed as sexual harassment.

An unwanted sexual advance through 'touching, groping, feeling, hugging or kissing' by a person is deemed to be sexual harassment.

For an act to be considered harassment, it’s necessarily not related to the physical proximity, as cracking “dirty” or sexual jokes, commenting upon ones’ physical attributes, spreading rumors, talking about or rating other people’s sexual performance/activity in front of other people is considered harassment too.

Further, the unwanted sexual statement in writing or through electronic modes likes email, messaging, etc. is as well taken as sexual harassment.

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Similarly, unwanted personal attention given to a person through letters, phone calls, visits, and pressure for sexual favors also compiles to sexual harassment. Even unnecessary personal interaction and thrust for dates with the intention of romantic or sexual pleasure which evidently seems unwanted is sexual harassment.

Broadly speaking, there are two types of harassment, hostile environment and “quid pro quo.”

Hostile environment:

Hostile environment sexual harassment happens when a person projects an unwelcoming sexual conduct, and intimidates, threatens and abuses, which in turn becomes so persistent, severe or pervasive that it affects the person’s ability to perform in the particular environment be it at work or study.

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The person harassing is often in a position of power due to which the victim suffers.

Quid pro quo or “This for That.”

Quid pro quo sexual harassment happens when one states or implies that person's career or an academic decision depends upon a person’s indulgence in sexual activity while making the learning or working environment hostile.

For example, if a person is made to believe that the participation in a University program/activity, or promotion in a job would be the outcome followed by a favor of a sexual nature, then it’s considered to be Quid pro quo sexual harassment.

Staying quiet is the biggest mistake one does upon becoming a victim of sexual harassment. It’s natural to become vulnerable upon being harassed, but the strength lies on recollecting yourself and fighting back; as the strongest person now, was the weakest someday!

Things To Do If You Get Sexually Harassed At Work.

The sexual harassment at work has been the burning issue of today’s, time which has been kept unaddressed for long, and it’s high time that we address it!

Talking about the strategies to stop sexual harassment, first of all, tell the person that his/her actions are unacceptable and try to sort the problem through dialogue. At times the harasser is not aware, if his/her actions were offensive in your part so, an honest confession could be a big help.

If it does not work out, then go through the employee handbook or manual to see the company policies and file a complaint accordingly. Document the evidence which could prove the sexual harassment and make your complaint even stronger.

It’s important to lodge a complaint in your company first and give them a chance to end the harassment, as it lowers your chances to lose the case in the court. But keep the details of the harassment including the date, time, and the detailed summary of the event which will help you fight for your right.

Further, to file a civil lawsuit under the Title VII, one needs to complain to the federal agency, EEOC. EEOC provides the Title VII after investigating and reaching no settlement. Different state agencies have different provisions, so file the claim before the limitation expires.

Sexual harassment is a burning issue, and it's important to be addressed, so, be the wave of change and speak up for yourself and stand up against the sexual harassment. Your silence is not only harming you but also unknowingly suppressing the voice of many, so, be brave enough to speak for your right. Also, only the discussion on sexual harassment could shed light on the severity of the harassment; which would, in turn, help make the necessary amendments in the law and act too, following which a person would think million times before doing an inhuman behavior of harassment.