Fortunately, due to the popularity of the MeToo campaign, awareness about sexual harassment is gaining acceptance. More organizations are coming under pressure to recognize sexual harassment as a criminal offense and to establish systems for reporting and punishing it.
In the first instance, it is necessary to recognize sexual harassment so that employees are protected at all times and feel empowered to report such instances to management. Sexual harassment in organizations can be defined as any non-consensual behavior which is of a sexual nature, physical or otherwise, which makes the employee feel embarrassed or offended.
Why Suffer Sexual Harassment In Organizations
Even though the victims of sexual harassment include men as well as women, the latter face an excessively higher proportion of sexual harassment. This is due to the privileged position that men, in general, enjoy in society as well as in the workplace, also known as quid pro quo harassment.
In this type of harassment, the offenders are usually in positions of power and they use this power to sexually harass women. The victims often feel helpless against such harassment because they fear to lose their jobs, increments or promotions if they complain about such behavior.
What Is Sexual Harassment?
In the United States, all organizations with more than 15 employees come under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act which defines sexual harassment as a form of discrimination. If you pursue a sexual harassment case against your employer in court, for example, through sexual harassment lawyer Ravi Sattiraju, you can be awarded compensation as well as damages for the harassment.
Sexual harassment in the workplace can take several forms. For example, inappropriate advances made by a colleague or supervisor are considered sexual harassment. They may accompany verbal or written behavior as well and create an uncomfortable environment for the victim.
The following actions are considered sexual harassment in the organization.
- Sending sexually explicit or offensive photographs, videos, SMSs or emails
- Sharing sexually inappropriate jokes or making sexual gestures
- Unwanted physical contact
- Ogling, winking or whistling at a colleague
- Passing sexual comments on physical appearance or clothing
Actions Against Sexual Harassment
Once you have recognized sexual harassment in the workplace, it is time to think about whether the organization has adequate mechanisms to report it and take disciplinary actions. There has to be a sexual harassment hotline in every organization through which the victim can report the incident to their direct manager, or to the human resource department.
This should be followed up by filling and submitting a sexual harassment claim with the human resource department, which may be online or paper-based.
Another useful resource is the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission where the victim can file a claim if the organization has failed to take action against the offender, or if such action has failed to deter the offender from repeating the offense. It is, therefore, important to maintain a complete record of the dates of the incident and all reports filed with the management.
It is equally important to avoid confusing sexual harassment with other forms of harassment that are equally vile and damaging to the morale of the workplace. These include harassment and discrimination based on race, religion or ethnicity, as well as disability and age. These should be reported separately and a sexual harassment claim filed against such behavior is not likely to succeed.
Always remember that you do not have to tolerate sexual harassment at any cost. Every person working at an organization has a responsibility to be respectful and courteous to one another. Do not try to find excuses to ignore sexual harassment if you feel you are being harassed. Stand up for your right to be respected at all times.
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