Harassment in the workplace is often a problem faced by female employees. Recent surveys notably the YouGov polls have noted that nearly a third of women have been sexually harassed at work while one in four adults in the U.S. have seen a colleague being sexually harassed.
Men, on the other hand, are also not exempted from the harassment issue. The YouGov survey showed that 15 percent of men had experienced sexual harassment at work but a third of them believed that female victims are given more validation or are given more support and respect.
According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), harassment can cover sexual harassment or unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical harassment or a sexual nature. The act is considered illegal when it is made frequent that it promotes an offensive work environment or when it leads to a negative employment decision such as the victim being demoted or fired from work.
Being harassed brings discomfort, anxiety and makes one lose his or her concentration while doing his tasks. But there are ways you can do to avoid this morally illegal act in your workplace.
What You Can Do as an Employee
If you feel you’re being pursued in a sexual manner by either an employee or a superior in the office, you can report the matter to management. Any employer should have a policy prohibiting sexual harassment in the workplace and should take disciplinary action against the offenders. Many companies issue a handbook covering office etiquette and other essential policies in the workplace. This should clearly state specifics including what acts are prohibited such as lewd remarks, bullying and display of graphic materials among others. Also, your company should be open to accommodating complaints with the assurance that those who file will not be retaliated against.
On the other hand, “if you feel the matter has become very serious and management failed to act on the problem, you have the option to file a legal action against the person harassing you,” according to domestic violence lawyer Vikas Bajaj. “Failure of a company to act on sexual harassment cases can make legally responsible in the court of law,” he added.
Pursuing a legal action may be costly the reason many sexual harassment cases are settled out of court. On the part of the employee, it would be a good idea to consult with a legal professional first before making a decision.
What Employers Should Do
Employers should make the welfare of their workers a top priority and this includes making sure that they are protected from any indecent and illegal act from their colleagues and superiors. A clear policy on this matter should be in place in the workplace and need to be strictly implemented with violators facing disciplinary actions or in worse cases, fired from their job.
A strict anti-harassment policy should cover information about discrimination and harassment of all types. It can even include a policy concerning consensual relationships between co-workers. Additionally, it should include a provision as to how employees can report harassment in the event they feel threatened.
An important step as well is the conduct of training sessions for all members of the organization from the rank and file to the supervisors and managers. The training can be conducted separately, though, for employees and for management people.
Constant monitoring of employees is as important. This will ensure that the workers are behaving properly and adhering to the office policies. But should a complaint be filed, the management should immediately look into the problem and take the necessary action.