Working Under Fire: Dealing With Workplace Sexual Harassment

28 September 2016
 Categories: Law, Blog


For most people, a job is not simply a place to earn money to pay the bills, but an opportunity to use their talents in a creative and useful manner. The time may come, however, when you dread going to work due to workplace sexual harassment. At first, you may have told yourself that it would stop when you ignored it or used humor to deal with it or just let the harasser know that you are not interested in them in that way. You should know that this problem seldom, if ever, simply goes away on its own, and that you have the right to work without feeling miserable, annoyed or even frightened. Read on to learn more about this workplace menace and how to handle it.

The Two Main Types of Sexual Harassment

1. Quid Pro Quo

This Latin phrase translates roughly to "something for something" and this form of sexual harassment is normally instigated by a work supervisor. The supervisor implies, either directly or indirectly, that a sexual favor of some sort could put you on a better career track. Often, bonuses, promotions, and raises are dangled in front of you, if you would only "play along" and go out with the supervisor, or worse. Failing to provide the supervisor with sexual favors could result in demotions, being left out of important campaigns or projects, not being informed of meetings or events, passed over for travel, and given more work than others with no recognition. It's important to note that often these threats are subtle and easily missed, but if you suspect you may be a victim, you should begin paying closer attention to your interactions with your supervisor. Ultimately, you could end up losing your job if the harassment continues.

2. Hostile Work Environment

This type of sexual harassment can be perpetrated by both coworkers or supervisors, and it is often the most overlooked. It can be quite subtle, or unmistakable and it often comes in the form of sexually explicit jokes, emails, artwork or calendars in the workplace, or more. At the worst, you may find yourself the victim of unwanted touches, such as hugs, tickles, pats, etc. If the touching is unwelcome and continues after you have expressed your displeasure, it is harassment. Repeated requests for a date or a sexual favor is also considered creating a hostile work environment. If your company "meets" in a strip club and going there makes you uncomfortable, that is sexual harassment.

Coping with Sexual Harassment

  • Begin to keep a journal as soon as you feel that you are being harassed, and write about every incident.
  • Make sure that you let the offender know that their actions are unacceptable and unwelcome.
  • Report the harassment to your direct supervisor, their supervisor (if necessary), or to human resources.

Take it to a Higher Level

If the above reporting fails to prompt action, you may need to file a formal complaint with the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission). Additionally, getting an employment attorney on board early on may put a quick end to the harassment with a carefully crafted letter to your company and the offender. For more information, contact a firm like Vandeventer Black LLP.