According to a research study published by the US EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission), one in four women is a sexual harassment victim at work. It translates into a staggering 85 percent of women being sexually harassed in the workplace. Despite the prevalence of sexual harassment, it is often difficult to distinguish the behavior and signs.
This is primarily because of two reasons—the office culture and the manager.
◊ The Office Culture
Sexual harassment can occur in any organization, which makes it hard to pinpoint or specify one particular sector where it is most prevalent. But as women and men differ on what constitutes sexual harassment, an office where there are more male workers is likely to be a more conducive environment. However, what is crucial is the culture of the organization.
A workplace where teams compete and aggression is encouraged is likely to be a thriving ground for sexual harassment. In the name of competition, victims may tolerate while perpetrators may get away with behaviors that otherwise are unacceptable. Simply stated, a tolerant environment breeds all manner of trouble.
◊ The Manager
How the manager handles sexual harassment can make all the difference. A stereotypical manager with traditional views of male and female employees may allow sexist comments and dismiss them as teasing or banter. Such managers only worry about results, not how they are achieved.
These factors make it hard for victims to identify whether they are being harassed or they are overreacting. As legal practitioners in this domain, we have created the below list of sexual harassment signs in the workplace to help you determine whether you’re a victim. Such behavior must be reported for personal safety. Moreover, employers may be liable by law if they ignore or don’t take action against signs and complaints of harassment. They are legally responsible for making the best efforts to provide a safe environment to work for everyone—men and women.
Signs of Sexual Harassment
◊ Unwanted Physical Acts
Physical contact of a sexual nature falls under sexual harassment. Unwanted contact may include patting, hugging, touching, grabbing, and pinching. Some people may see physical acts like hugs and touching arms or face as an innocent way to express friendship; it can also be viewed as an unlawful way of invading the recipient’s personal space. These sexual advances are dependent on you and how they make you feel. If you feel uncomfortable and think that such physical acts are unwanted and inappropriate, then they should be reported.
◊ Sexualized Jokes, Images or Language
Sexualized images, remarks, jokes, comments, noises, and language all fall under gender harassment. It is a form of sexual harassment characterized by non-verbal or verbal behavior that conveys hostility, exclusion, objectification, and second-class status to the opposite gender.
This activity can be face-to-face or on text messages, phone, email, social media post, or app messages. Sexual harassment is not only limited to physical contact; it can be through technology, messages, and images during or after work hours. Whatever it may be, being subjected to sexualized verbal or non-verbal content violates the workplace policies and should not be overlooked.
For example, if colleagues brag about their sexual experiences, or unreasonably post photos of women on the walls, or have department meetings at places like Hooters, you may have a severe issue. If you tolerate such behavior, you are encouraging a workplace environment that is tolerant of harassment.
Quid-Pro-Quo is a Latin word that means something in return for something. If this prevails in your office and you have been asked for little “favors” at work, then that is a surefire sign of sexual harassment. This can include but is not limited to:
- Request to go out on dates
- Request for sex or sexual activity by a workplace superior accompanied by a threat to your job security
Even though unwelcomed, some employees may succumb to such requests and inappropriate demands by their superiors because many people work to support themselves and their children. Some are single parents who can’t forgo their job by refusing unwanted sexual demands. Such individuals, especially women, are incredibly vulnerable, and they are less likely to take action because they are afraid that they may lose their jobs.
◊ Make Comments on Physical Appearance
Another sign of sexual harassment is when colleagues or your boss make uncomfortable comments on your physical appearance. Maybe the harasser is full of compliments or seems to have an easy, pleasant way with women. But if you don’t want them to comment, then you don’t have to put up with it.
Some men don’t have any problem saying that “wow your pants or your dress looks amazing.” People who do corporate training in sexual harassment call this grooming and it is designed to blur the line between the personal and the professional. However, if tolerated for long, it can give the harasser a sign that you don’t mind their comments, and then they may escalate to touching or sexual comments.
Seek Legal Recourse, if it is Not Addressed
Sometimes sexual harassment behaviors, even when reported, are ignored and pushed under the mat. And when addressed, the gravity of the situation is either downplayed or denied. Eventually, the outcome may be nothing. Therefore, to avoid being a victim of sexual harassment, seek help from our experienced lawyer in North Carolina. If you’re a sexual harassment victim, contact us to speak with our attorney to discuss your case, without charge or further obligation.
At the Law Offices of Jason E. Taylor P.C., our lawyer will defend your workplace rights not to have to put up with sexual harassment. Call us today.