The topic of workplace sexual harassment is one that we all hope to avoid, but it is a real threat in the workplace today. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), more than 7,500 sexual harassment claims were filed in 2018. This was an increase from the previous year. In light of the #MeToo movement, more people were made aware of, and understand the seriousness of workplace harassment. In order to protect yourself, it is important to know exactly how sexual harassment is defined and can affect you.
Defining Workplace Sexual Harassment
According to the EEOC, workplace sexual harassment can occur in many ways.
- Victims and harassers may be men or women. Harassment is not contained to opposite genders.
- The harasser can be a supervisor, coworker, a vendor or customer.
- The victim could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.
- Unlawful harassment may occur with or without the victim losing their position at work.
- The harasser’s conduct must be unwelcome to the victim.
Some Industries Face Higher Incidents of Workplace Harassment
Sexual harassment can occur in any workplace setting, but there are industries and factors that are associated with a greater risk of harassment. These could include:
- Working for tips. Workers who depend on tips, such as wait staff, hotel workers or others in service industries. According to the EEOC, these workers account for 14% of total harassment claims.
- Working in isolated environments. Janitors, domestic workers or those in the agricultural arena are more at risk for sexual harassment. Isolation makes workers vulnerable and easy targets.
- Undocumented workers. For those who are in the country on work visas, or perhaps are undocumented, the chances of sexual harassment are very high.
- Women who work in a male dominated field. If women are a small minority in the workplace, the chances of harassment are increased.
- Power disparities among workers. For those workers who are at the bottom of the corporate ladder, the chances of being sexually harassed by a superior are greater. People of power may think that rules do not apply to them.
The above steps are ways to identify sexual harassment, but it still may be difficult to decide if you are a victim. Sometimes victims feel embarrassed by the harassment and fail to report the incident. If the harasser is a supervisor, the victim may be concerned that they will lose their job if they report it. There are incidents where the victim feels they have been harassed, but are unsure if the harassment meets the legal qualifications. The most important lesson to learn is that you deserve to feel safe at work. If you are put in a position that makes you feel less secure, or if the conduct of another person directly affects your work performance, you may be a victim.
Sexual harassment robs victims of security. Please do not feel that you have nowhere to turn. Contact our team at Ligori & Ligori to schedule a consultation. We will listen to your story and help you explore your options. You are not in this alone. Give us a call today.
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