Sexual harassment in the workplace consists of unsolicited sexual behaviors the recipient finds offensive and intimidating. Though this discrimination is illegal, the number of cases of sexual harassment continues to increase each year. This harassment may affect the recipient’s work performance, health, and career. Both men and women are victims of this discrimination; unfortunately, the majority never reports it to their employers due to fear of retaliation or loss of employment.
Sexual Harassment in the Work Place
Headlines in newspapers, the evening news, and the internet report an increasing number of sexual harassment incidents in the public arena of politics. Imagine the number of incidents taking place in the larger private sector, out of the public’s scrutiny. Although many types of harassment occur in the workplace, the most common, sexual harassment often remains unreported. Various factors constitute sexual harassment in the workplace and may lead to retaliation towards victims electing to report incidents. In addition to adverse effects on victims, organizations similarly suffer from sexual harassment incidents.
Factors Constituting Sexual Harassment
Decades ago, federal law prohibited discrimination with the creation of The Civil Rights Act of 1964. Through several amendments and inclusion of Title VII, this law now includes sexual harassment as a form of discrimination. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) published guidelines for defining workplace sexual harassment, as well as standards in handling charges of sexual harassment. Sexual harassment arises from unsolicited physical, verbal, and non-verbal behavior of a sexual nature hindering one’s work performance or generating an antagonistic or intimidating work environment.
Physical harassment involves inappropriate touching or any other means of improper body contact, including forced sexual encounters. Offensive remarks regarding one’s appearance, clothing, or body constitute verbal harassment. Also, a sexually explicit joke, suggestive or insulting sounds, and undesired sexual propositions or invitations all constitute various forms of verbal harassment. Additionally, sexual harassment includes non-verbal harassment consisting of offensive gestures and sending sexually inappropriate material through emails or phone messages.
According to the EEOC, women file the majority of sexual harassment cases; however, increasing numbers of men file, due to women advancing to positions of power within the workforce. Statistically, 100% of women report their harasser as a male, while men report harassment by both women and men alike. Alarmingly, a combined 70% of men and women report harassment from immediate supervisors or senior management, personnel with authority over the employee. Likewise, a combined 62% of victims elect not taking action by reporting harassment, perhaps for fear of retaliation.
Fear of retaliation...