Speak Up: sexual harassment in the workplace and what you can do | June 11, 2018

Sexual harassment is defined as “unwelcome verbal, visual, non-verbal or physical conduct that is sexual in nature and can affect working conditions and create a hostile environment” (www.equalrights.org). Sexual harassment can impact women and men, and can happen by a supervisor, co-worker, or even a non-employee.

Sexual Harassment

By Nicole Friedman, LSW

According to a survey that was conducted in 2015 by Cosmopolitan of 2,235 employees found that 1 in 3 women ranging from ages 18-34 were sexually harassed at work with 71% of those women stating they did not report it (timesupnow.com).

What is Workplace Sexual Harassment?

In the work place, sexual harassment can be verbal or written as well as physical. Examples of verbal or written harassment include: commenting about an employees clothing or body shape, making sexual jokes or requesting sexual favors of an employee as the only way they can receive a raise or promotion.

Physical sexual harassment can include: inappropriate touching of an employees body, blocking someones movement, or touching someone against their will or consent. Starring at an employees body, making derogatory gestures, and displaying posters or sending e-mails of a sexual nature all are considered non-verbal and visual sexual harassment.

However, sexual harassment does not always have to be sexual in nature. It can also be based on a persons sex or gender. For example, a woman who does the same job as a man, however, is the one who receives harsh criticism or is singled out is also considered unlawful.

What Can You Do?

The first recommendation is to speak to the harasser. Let them know that their behavior offends you and demand that they stop. Make sure that you are clear and make a written record of the conversation. Start a paper trail, review your personnel file, and report the harassment. Keep copies of everything you send and receive from the harasser and review your jobs policy on harassment. Follow through with the agency’s procedures for reporting the incident and be aware of deadlines to make the report.

Some states may give as few as 180 days after the incident occurred to make a report. If you are part of a union, report the incident to the union and file a formal grievance. Contact the U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to file a lawsuit if you feel the employer has not addressed your harassment. It is unlawful for an employer to retaliate against an employee filing a sexual harassment report.

Over the past several months in Hollywood, sports, and even in our government sexual harassment has become more known. For more information or to report sexual harassment you can contact the U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission at www.eeoc.gov or toll free at 800-669-4000. For further support please contact JFS at 570-344-1186. Whether you are a man or a woman, sexual harassment is unlawful. Continued advocacy and discussion needs to continue and to not forget to speak up.