It’s no secret that sexual harassment is rampant in workplaces across the world.
If anyone is experiencing sexual harassment, it’s important to know your rights and what steps you can take to protect yourself.
In this blog post, we’ll explore some of the reasons why victims of sexual harassment might choose not to come forward, and we’ll also provide some tips on how to deal with sexual harassment if you find yourself in such a situation.
What is Sexual Harassment in the workplace?
Sexual harassment in the workplace is a form of discrimination that can occur between co-workers, employees and employers, or between customers and businesses. It can take many forms, from unwanted sexual advances, unwelcome request for sexual favors, or other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature which makes a person offended to offensive comments about someone’s appearance or body.
Sexual harassment is a serious issue that can have a profound impact on victims, both emotionally and professionally.
There are other forms of harassment at workplace. These can be verbal or physical. It happens due to someone because of their race, gender, religion or other characteristic. And it includes anything from offensive jokes and comments to physical assaults.
Examples of Sexual Harassment at workplace
Sexual harassment can happen as a one-off incident or it can be ongoing behaviour. It can happen in person and through other communication tools such as email, social media and messaging platforms.
Given below are few common behaviors which qualify as sexual harassment at workplace.
- Making request for having sex
- Making sexual comments about someone’s body or appearance
- Touching, hugging in an unwelcome manner
- Staring or leering
- Showing or sharing sexually explicit content i.e messages, pictures, text
- Proposing to go out on dates in an unwelcome manner
- Asking intrusive questions about a person’s private life or body
- Making insults based on sex
- Telling sexually offensive jokes
How to Deal with Sexual Harassment at Workplace
There are many different reasons why victims of sexual harassment might choose not to come forward about their experiences, including fear of retaliation, feelings of shame or humiliation, and believing that nothing will be done to help them.
Additionally, some people may not even realize that they are being harassed, as sexual harassment can take many different forms.
There are many different ways to deal with sexual harassment, depending on the severity of the behavior and the impact it is having on you.
There are 10 best ways to deal with sexual harassment at workplace.
1. Speak up
According to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a government agency responsible for processing the sexual harassment complaints, 75% of sexual harassment cases go unreported. It is mainly due to shame, fear of repercussions and cultural norms.
If you’re being harassed, it’s important to speak up and let harasser know that his/her behavior is not acceptable at all.
Before you speak up, it’s important to assess the situation. You need to put your emotions aside and take stock of all facts and asses how these facts qualify as conduct of sexual harassment.
It’s totally normal that you may feel nervous before you speak up. But all you need is to just pick up courage and have a candid one-on-one conversation in a calm but assertive way.
2. Keep a record
When you decide to report incident of sexual harassment then you need to keep record of all incidents that have happened and might happen in the future.
This record will help you when you are to file a complaint where you can present series of incidents and examples. This will strengthen your case and it would be easier for you to explain your case.
All you need is to keep a note book and record date and time of incident, locations, and any witnesses who may have seen or heard the harassment. Also do ensure that this note book is kept elsewhere outside office.
3. Talk to someone you trust
Talking to someone that you have experienced sexual harassment is never an easy task. But it’s important to have someone to talk to about what’s happening with you. This could be a friend, family member, coworker, or therapist.
Another important thing is that it’s not necessary to share every detail of your experience. And also you need to keep this in mind that what may be the reaction of other person and why you are sharing with him/her.
You also need to consider the time when you are sharing and place where you are present while having conversation. Because all these minor factors will actually have impact on the reaction of other person who is listening you.
4. Report the harassment
If you’re being harassed at workplace, you should first report it to your supervisor. There may be an internal process for dealing with these complaints. But first complaint should be sent to your supervisor.
It’s always better to file complaint in a written form. If your complaint is not properly addressed by your supervisor then report it to HR and senior management. This time you need to prepare your case or complain in a professional manner like all written documents are available, written record of incidents are also available.
If not, you can still file a complaint with different public institutions which have mandate to take legal action against sexual harassment.
5. File a lawsuit
If you’ve been the victim of severe harassment, you may want to consider filing a lawsuit. This can be a long and difficult process, but it may be the only way to get justice and compensation.
You definitely need a lawyer who will prepare your case and file lawsuit. But keep this thing in mind that litigation is a cumbersome process.
You may be required to give full details of incidents, your work-related records and other information related to your work. You may be asked to present your medical reports to establish the impact of this incident on your emotional and physical health.
6. Get a restraining order
If you’re being harassed by someone outside of work, you may be able to get a restraining order. This will require the person to stay a certain distance away from you and may prevent them from contacting you in any way.
A restraining order will restrain harasser to not contact you or any member of your household, not go near you and your children no matter where you go and it also restrict harasser to stay away from your work.
7. Change your routine
If you’re being harassed by someone you see on a regular basis, you may need to change your routine to avoid them. This can mean taking a different route to work or shopping at a different store.
This is equally true for your routine at workplace. You may need to talk to your supervisor and HR to ask them to change your desk or place or working hours.
This strategy will help you to prevent further incident of harassment and also reduce your stress level by avoiding contact with your harasser.
8. Stay in public places
It’s generally safer to stay in public places where there are other people around. This can help deter the person from harassing you and may provide witnesses if the harassment does occur.
And if you’re working at large workplace then it is always important to stay in common areas in presence of other coworkers. When you are not alone then it is less likely that your harasser will take any action against you.
9. Keep your phone with you
If you’re being harassed by text or email, it’s important to keep a record of the messages. You may want to screenshot them or save them in a separate folder.
Another benefit of your phone is to make video of any incident which may qualify as sexual harassment. This will help you while gathering evidences and preparing case or filing lawsuit.
10. Seek professional help
If you’re struggling to cope with the harassment, you may want to seek professional help. A therapist can provide support and guidance as you deal with this difficult situation.
A therapist may help you by providing you professional support on how to cope with emotional and phycological trauma of experiencing sexual harassment. A therapist may also help you to rebuild your relationships at workplace.
consequences of Sexual Harassment at workplace
Sexual harassment in the workplace can have a number of negative consequences for both the victim and the harasser. The victim may experience psychological distress, including anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. They may also have difficulty concentrating, sleeping, or eating.
The harasser may face disciplinary action from their employer, including termination. They may also be sued by the victim and ordered to pay damages.
In some cases, the harasser may be criminally charged.
Sexual harassment can also have a negative impact on the workplace as a whole. It can create a hostile or tense environment, and may lead to decreased productivity. And above all, it damages reputation of organization.
There are number of ways to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.
As an employer, you should have a clear policy against sexual harassment. This policy should be communicated to all employees, and should include a process for reporting and investigating complaints.
As an employee, you can help prevent sexual harassment by speaking up if you see or hear it happening. You can also report any incidents of sexual harassment to your employer and taking other legal actions.