You love your new job and anticipate a successful, fulfilling career in your field. If you follow the news, you’re probably aware of the possibility of sexual harassment in the workplace, but you figure this type of discrimination only happens to a different category of women other than yourself.
Multiple surveys reveal that over 80 percent of women have experienced some form of sexual harassment, making you a likely target. Would you even recognize being a victim of sexual harassment? What should you do if you find you are one of 33 million women harassed while on the job? Read on to discover these four signs you may be a victim of workplace sexual harassment and what you can do about it.
1. Your Workplace is Full of Sexual Innuendos and Photos
Workplaces rife with sexual innuendos, jokes, and calendars of scantily-clad women are commonly associated with male-dominated businesses like mechanic shops and construction sites. However, every workplace, even professional offices, can be a place where sexually-charged jokes, remarks, and photos are present.
Your work environment probably started out free from harmful sexual examples, but changes in management or ownership can precipitate the sly introduction and later acceptance of materials and attitudes full of sexual innuendo. If your workplace is one where jokes and literature offend others because they are sexual in nature, you and other employees may be victims of sexual harassment.
2. You Feel Uncomfortable at Work
Working well with co-workers and management is essential to a successful job or career. However, you may begin to feel uncomfortable around specific people due to their comments and gestures, which may not necessarily be directed toward you.
Co-workers may make you feel upset, uneasy, or even threatened with sexual slurs, insults, and other forms of ridicule. A supervisor is known for touching women and rubbing their shoulders. You might begin to dread going to work each day because of what you hear and witness. When this behavior occurs regularly, you and others around you are victims of sexual harassment.
3. You Receive Sexual Advances and Bribes
Many couples meet in the workplace and begin a relationship. However, mutual attraction and unwanted sexual advances are different. Anytime a person at work makes sexual advances toward you that make you feel uncomfortable, you are a victim of sexual harassment.
An equally obvious form of sexual harassment occurs when a sexual overture is accompanied by promises or threats. For example, your supervisor asks you out for dinner alone to discuss a promotion not ordinarily possible without your acceptance.
4. You’re Punished After You Make a Complaint
Your employer should take any complaints of sexual harassment seriously. If you make a formal complaint of harassment that has occurred several times and an employer makes your life worse, the employer is retaliating. Employer retaliation after a sexual complaint is illegal.
Employer retaliation comes in many forms. Rather than reprimanding a sexual harasser, your boss instead moves you to a different, less desirable location or job position. Your boss may lower your pay or remove benefits to match your new job title. Still other employers might give you poor performance reviews to justify firing you later.
Fortunately, if you suspect sexual harassment, continue to receive harassment, or experience retaliation, you have several options:
- Approach the co-worker about any behavior that is offensive, and ask them to stop.
- Report the behavior to your superior.
- Write down dates, names, and occurrences of harassment to establish a record. Include witness information to corroborate your claim.
- File a formal complaint with your human resource supervisor.
- Get a copy of your employee file as proof of positive prior employee evaluations.
Finally, you can seek advice from legal counsel with experience in sexual harassment and other forms of workplace discrimination. Call Shegerian & Associates if you suspect you are a victim of sexual harassment where you work.