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What You Need to Know When You’re Sexually Harassed

June 4, 2012

By admin

The sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live produced a poignant fictional skit a few years ago on the topic of sexual harassment in the workplace. In several instances NFL quarterback Tom Brady, considered classically handsome by most standards, would flirt with and ask out gushing female coworkers. They clearly welcomed his attention, even once while he wore no pants!

Meanwhile, another coworker played by less-classically handsome comedian Jon Lovitz nervously and shyly asked out those same female coworkers on dates. Their reactions ranged from awkward discomfort to hints of claiming sexually harassment.

Don’t get caught up flirting into an awkward situation in the workplace

While the skit reflected some common do’s and don’ts of flirting in a funny way—as well as some unspoken truths about how people perceive similar situations differently—the fact is sexual harassment in the workplace can be difficult to define. Where one person perceives innocent flirting, another might perceive unwelcomed advances. If the situation gets out of control, the consequences aren’t very funny.

Actually, the distinction between flirting in sexual harassment is clear: one involves welcome conduct, while the other involves unwelcome conduct. Flirting usually involves laughing, jokes that are mutually appreciated, perhaps feelings of nervousness, but usually excitement and happiness. Both people involved feel good about what’s happening.

Sexual harassment, on the other hand, is one-sided, where only the harasser feels good. The target of the harassment can feel bad about him or herself, hopeless, or powerless. The harassing conduct may involve inappropriate attention, such as comments about one’s body, or uncomfortable touching.

Harassment at Work Is Not Innocent and Makes Someone A Victim

Sexual harassment isn’t actually about attraction or sexuality. It’s about making other people feel small in order for the harasser to feel powerful. At the end of the day, it’s about how you feel about what is being said or done to you. Sexual harassment violates well established employment law, and you have a right to feel comfortable and safe at work.

Here are some important things you need to know if you’re being sexually harassed:

  1. Report it immediately. Some harassed employees quit as soon as the first incident of sexual harassment occurs, out of fear or embarrassment. You should report the harassment, following company policies if any are in place. You should consider giving the employer the chance to fix the situation. Not following company guidelines for reporting can negatively affect any claims you might have.
  2. Put everything in writing. Detail every comment, advance, explicit image, inappropriate joke or email of a sexual nature, anything that you’ve experienced or witnessed where you’re being treated different for being a man or woman.
  3. It doesn’t have to be sexual. Most people think of sexual harassment as unwanted sexual advances, touching, or comments. But are you being assigned to less favorable shifts or more difficult tasks because you’re a man or woman? Any gender-based discrimination still needs to be reported under sexual harassment guidelines.

It’s the employer’s duty to create a safe workplace. If you are harassed or in a hostile work environment because of your gender, make sure you understand your rights and responsibilities. You have the right to work in an environment that is free of sexual harassment.

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