Sexual Harassment In The Workplace

Sexual harassment is any unwanted sexual advance that can be physical or verbal, direct or implied. It is a complex term to define although there have been advances every year in the legislation that issues guidelines about sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment includes the following;

- physical contact and sexual advances

- demands for sexual favors

- sexually motivated remarks

- displaying pornography

Sexual Harassment At Work

Sexual harassment in the workplace can affect anyone. Primarily it is women who are affected although 15% of official complaints are made by men. Sexual harassment can have a huge impact on the workplace. It can alter the working environment if people feel intimidated or uncomfortable and for the victims themselves it can impact on their quality of life and work.

Steps are being taken to highlight the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace and to eliminate it. There are policies at work that should be adhered to and agencies to take complaints to. However, sexual harassment at work can take many forms and victims are often unsure how to prevent it or whether they have any legal backing to do so.

How Is It Defined?

Sexual harassment at work occurs when unwelcome behavior that is based on gender, has an impact on a person's job. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) define it as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:

- submission to this conduct is made a condition for keeping your job (a condition that is either explicit or implied)

- refusing or submitting to this conduct is then used as a basis for employment decisions with that individual

- the conduct interferes unreasonably with the individual's work or creates a hostile / offensive working environment

Examples Of Sexual Harassment At Work

Sexual harassment at work can be very overt such as threatening to fire an employee if they do not sexually cooperate with the supervisor. Other types of sexual harassment can be committed by co-workers or customers etc. These behaviors include unnecessary touching, crude and offensive language, sexual comments and displaying suggestive pictures.

What Can Be Done?

Employers should do their best to create a harassment free work environment. Many companies have written policies that outline boundaries and explain the complaints procedure. If employers are responsible for the sexual harassment or they are not taking the complaints about their workers seriously,  an official complaint can be lodged. The employer is obliged to participate fully with any investigation into claims of sexual harassment. You can expect your employer to take some kind of remedial action against any employee found guilty of sexual harassment. These disciplinary measures may include an oral or written warning, demotion, suspension or discharge.

Everyone has the legal right to work in an environment that is free from sexual harassment.

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