Instructor Leah Westerman
September 24, 2012
Sexual harassment in the workplace is nothing new. As long as there have been co-workers, sexual harassment has existed. Over the years though, workplaces have become more diversified, and women began to rise to positions of power. With these changes, sexual harassment came to be something that was not only unacceptable, but in most cases, illegal.
According to Liuzzo, (2013), “Sexual harassment is unwelcome sexual attention, whether verbal or physical, that affects an employee’s job condition or creates a hostile working environment” (Liuzzo, 2013). This not only applies to co-workers of the opposite sex, but same sex co-workers as well. There are several forms of sexual harassment, including, but not limited to the following: * Verbal or written comments about someone’s body, appearance or style of dress. Repeatedly asking someone out on a date or making unwanted sexual advances, spreading rumors about someone or threatening a person. * Physical contact including inappropriate touching or stroking, or blocking a person’s movement. * Nonverbal actions such as derogatory gestures or looking up and down a person’s body. * Visuals such as pictures, posters or screen savers that are sexual in nature (equalrights.org, 2012). * Turning work discussions sexual.
* Asking someone personal questions about their sex life. * Referring to an adult person as honey, babe, etc.
* Giving a coworker gifts.
* Whistling or cat calling at someone.
* Actual or attempted rape or sexual assault (un.org, 2012). Sexual harassment can also be non-sexual if you are a female in an all male environment, or male in an all female environment. For example, if you are a male and you work in a ladies’ clothing store, and your lunch is continually hidden, that can be sexual harassment (equalrights.org, 2012). When identifying sexual harassment, unwelcome is the biggest word to look for. Sexual harassment is usually not defined by one occurrence. If a coworker asks you out once, and you say, no, you are not interested, this is not sexual harassment. If you are repeatedly asked out by the same coworker, however, this would be sexual harassment. Similarly, if a coworker tells you a joke once that you consider offensive, that would not be sexual harassment. If you mention to the coworker that you do not appreciate that kind of humor and would they please refrain from telling those jokes in your presence and they continue, then it would be sexual harassment (un.org, 2012). There are laws against sexual harassment to help protect workers from harassment from bosses, coworkers or customers while they are at work. Both men and women are protected by law and it is possible for someone of the same sex to sexually harass you. Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects against sexual harassment. This law applies to private and public employers, employment agencies, and labor unions with 15 or more employees. This law is amended in California to those with even one employee. Not only do these laws protect against the harassment itself, but they also protect against retaliation. If you are sexually harassed by someone at your workplace and you report it, that person can not take action against you, as in firing or demoting you to another position (equalrights.org, 2012). The law also says that employers must take action to keep their employees safe at work from sexual harassment. Even though this law is in place, there are no specific actions an employer must take to make sure they are within the law. They may hold a class to educate employees as to what sexual harassment is, or it may be something as small as having a policy in place. What they have to do, however, is to enforce the policy. If a worker files a complaint about sexual harassment in the workplace and the employer fails to take action or even...