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Cases of sexual harassment in the workplace are still prevalent in today’s society. Despite conversations in the workplace and heavy media coverage surrounding the topic, people still struggle to behave appropriately. One questions remains — is it possible to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace altogether? Are there specific steps an employer may be able to take in providing their employees with the proper education and training around the topic? Although prevention is key, there are still, and will continue to be cases of workplace sexual harassment. If you have fallen victim to this unfair and inappropriate treatment in the workplace, it may be a good idea to take action.
Forms of Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment can range from subtle and hard to detect to blatantly obvious. Some situations can leave a victim questioning whether what they just experienced was, in fact, sexual harassment. “Locker Room” talk is still alive and well in today’s society. Unfortunately, many find themselves brushing it off for fear of the repercussions. Sexual harassment in the workplace can come in two forms:
Quid Pro Quo: This is often the first form of harassment that comes to mind when people think of sexual harassment in the workplace. Quid pro quo or, “this for that,” is when someone of higher standing or with more power in a company propositions an employee with less power in the form of sexual favors. In exchange for this, the manager or supervisor promises employment perks such as wage increases or promotions. There are a number of examples of ways in which this may occur in the workplace.
Hostile Work Environment: This form of harassment is not limited to leadership because it can also come from a coworker or peer in the workplace. In some situations, a hostile work environment may include a group of people. This form of harassment doesn’t offer anything in return to the person being harassed. A hostile work environment is when an unhealthy work environment is created or perpetuated in a number of ways. In a number of situations, someone within the workplace may be a target. Examples include:
- Crude jokes or sexual images or videos being shown in the office
- Calling other people inappropriate and derogatory names
- Unwanted and inappropriate touching
- Repeatedly asking someone on dates
- Having conversations that are inappropriate
To experience harassment in the workplace is sure to be stressful. Being able to identify workplace sexual harassment is one of the first steps towards making a decision about how best to move forward.
Steps an Employer Should Take
Can an employer take steps to ensure that the presence of such inappropriate behavior is completely admonished? A diligent employer may reduce the risk of perpetuating a workplace that allows for these inappropriate acts in the following ways:
- Take complaints of sexual harassment seriously
- Have a clear protocol in place for sexual harassment complaints
- Investigate all claims and take action
- Place information regarding sexual harassment in places where employees can see them
- Provide regular sexual harassment training to all staff
- Take disciplinary action against the person who has behaved poorly
Employers should handle all claims of sexual harassment swiftly and efficiently. Failure to do so may only cause problems to worsen, especially if an employer does not have a procedural process in place.
To experience sexual harassment in the workplace can leave a lasting impact on a person. Facing situations in the workplace that may be uncomfortable, inappropriate, and cause a victim to fear retaliation from their employer is no way for someone to live. Although coming forward to take a stand and protecting your rights may come with some adversity, it may prove to be worth it in the long run. If you have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, it may be in your best interest to contact a lawyer, like a discrimination litigation lawyer in Washington, DC from Eric Siegel Law, to help you in managing your case.