Guaranteed Guide for Moms to Identify & Act on Sexual Harassment at Work

To excel in the corporate world, women have had to overcome major challenges especially to do with discrimination. Women have fewer and lesser opportunities in leadership and have it harder than men in getting promotions or pay rises. In addition to that, women are faced with physical, mental, and sexual harassment at the workplace.

While all these are serious offenses, sexual offenses are more rampant across the world. Moms are harassed sexually to get employed, get promoted, get a pay rise, or any other work-related development. The perception of women as weak and vulnerable tends to predispose them to such many cases of harassment at the workplace.

As a result, victims are forced to work under a strenuous work environment that affects their work performance, social life and psychological health, leading to poor life quality and deteriorating health.

However, the good news is that women do not have to work under such conditions. Women have a right to fair treatment at the workplace and need not entertain any sexual harassment to gain favor in the eye of the employer. 

Major developments in labor and law now classify sexual harassment as an offense and hence women have varying options of how they can deal with and stop sexual harassment at the workplace. 

In this post, I have detailed what pertains to sexual harassment and the options available for the victims.

How to Identify Sexual Harassment

Ramifications of Sexual Harassment

Gathering and Documenting Evidence

Taking Action

What to Do If the Perpetrator Is the Boss

Possible Remedies

Guaranteed Steps on How To Identify and Handle Sexual Harassment At The Workplace

1. Identify Sexual Harassment

While men can also be victims of sexual harassment especially from female bosses, women are more affected than men. In every country, there are rules and regulations protecting employees from any form of harassment including sexual harassment. For instance, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 recognizes sexual harassment as a form of sex discrimination.

Legally, sexual harassment is an offense especially when agreeing to the conduct is a condition of employment, whereby rejecting the conduct is used in making employment decisions, or if the conduct is intended to unreasonably interfere with the individual’s work performance or the conduct creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.

Once you are aware of what kind of behaviors are regarded as sexual harassment, you will easily identify and spot sexual harassment should it happen to you or your colleague. You become more educated, ready, and equipped in stopping such harassment.

The person involved in the harassment can be the supervisor, a supervisor in another department, a colleague, or someone who is not an employee of the employer, such as a client or customer. Also, the victim could be an employee who is indirectly but negatively affected by the offensive conduct.

Across the different cases, sexual harassment may vary in degree and frequency among other factors but generally, sexual harassment is unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, as well as verbal/ physical conduct of a sexual nature.

Examples /Forms of Sexual Harassment at work Against Women

  • Unwelcome sexual advances/ sexual favors- very common against women
  • Direct/indirect threats/bribes for sexual activity
  • Sexual innuendos and comments- mostly against young women
  • Sexually suggestive jokes
  • Unwelcome touching/brushing against a person -mostly against young women
  • Displays of explicit material – common in some workplaces
  • Attempted or completed sexual assault – very common but unreported

The law prohibits employers from discriminating against individuals in hiring, firing, and other terms and conditions of employment, like promotions, raises, and other job opportunities because of their sex.

In addition, employers are required to have policies and codes of conduct in place that protect women from sexual harassment and offer an avenue for solving and remedying such cases.

Read: How to Deal with Pregnancy Discrimination at Work

2. Understand the Implications of Sexual Harassment

Many employers and female employees underestimate the negative implications of sexual harassment and what it means for the victims. First, it results in psychological suffering that includes humiliation, reduced motivation, and loss of self-esteem among others.

Secondly, they undergo behavioral changes such as isolation, and deterioration of relationships. Also, they experience stress-related physical and mental illnesses such as drug and alcohol abuse. In extreme cases, the women forego career opportunities, leave employment or commit suicide as a result of these experiences.

Hence it is very important that working women practise self care to avoid suffering to this level.

Read: Selfcare for Working Mums

sexual harassment at work affects mental health

In addition, society has to bear the long-term rehabilitation costs for the reintegration of the female victims after they seek trauma treatment. Further, if they lose their job, society bears the unemployment welfare benefits. As such sexual harassment is an offense that needs to stop.

3. Gather and Document Evidence

Having proof that you are being harassed at work as a woman is important. Keep records of what you can of instances of sexual harassment such as call records & logs, text messages, photos, videos, or emails containing the offensive content/behavior.

Some forms of harassment such as touching, and jokes among others may be hard to obtain proof but ensure you can keep record of the day, time, place, and any people around if possible. These records will help you build a case with HR or in court thereafter.

Also if your supervisor/employer demotes you, fires you, or cuts your salary for denying a sexual advance, keep a record of any official letter detailing the reasons for this action.

keeping records of sexual harassment is a key step in getting a solution

4. Take Action

After going through the above steps and confirming that you or your colleague is a victim of sexual harassment, it is time to take action. It is still shocking that most women who face sexual harassment at the workplace take no action against the offense and suffer stoically.

Remember that sexual harassment is an offense under the company policies and the law and hence you have options for retribution. You should not agree to any sexual misconduct or harassment to gain favor with your boss or supervisor.  Help yourself and other women in fighting harassment by saying no and taking action against the perpetrator.

You can take any of the options detailed below.

be bold , report and act against sexual harassment at work

Different Actions Against Sexual Harassment at Work

A. Internal Retribution- Best Option for Addressing Sexual Harassment

One way of dealing with sexual harassment at the workplace is through your office. Read your company policies regarding making and reporting harassment cases at your workplace. Look out for notices addressing the violations and advising on the right to be free of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation.

Once you have all the documents and records in place, you can report the matter to HR. Remember sexual harassment is an offense and your employer is obligated to provide measures for preventing as well as solving sexual harassment cases at the workplace. 

Following the right channel and medium, go the HR office and report your case. Ensure you retain a copy of this as well. Hopeful the case will be solved internally by the HR office. Certain disciplinary actions may be taken against the perpetrator and you also can be remedied in a variety of ways.

The action will be guided by your company policies as well as your country’s anti-harassment law. The employer is obligated to take corrective or preventive actions concerning the source of the harassment and minimize the chance of it happening again, as well as discontinuing the specific discriminatory practices involved in the case.

In some cases, however, your case may not be settled satisfactorily by your HR office, especially if it involves the boss or another high-ranking executive.

B. Involve a Lawyer -Best Alternative for Addressing Sexual Harassment

Involving a lawyer will play a major role in your case if you are being sexually harassed at work. If your case is not addressed or solved satisfactorily by the internal HR office, you have a legal option. Also, you may choose this option given the gravity of your harassment case and the implications on the parties involved.

In such cases pursue your case legally with the help of a discrimination lawyer. Consult a lawyer with details of your case and ask for legal advice. Your evidence and documentation will come in very handy at this time.

Read : How To Handle Pregnancy Discrimination At The Workplace

What to Do If the Perpetrator of Sexual Harassment Is the Boss

When the perpetrator of the sexual harassment is the direct supervisor or the boss, the case may be difficult and more complicated than if it was a co-worker. It is highly unlikely that your case will be handled internally at your workplace considering the seniority of the people involved.

In such a case, two options are highly recommended.

1. Quit Your Job if Sexually Harassed by your Boss

If your boss is sexually harassing you, it is highly unlikely that this will end well for you if your try pursuing the matter internally. At his disposal, the boss can demote, cut your salary or simply fire you in an attempt to stop him and his advances. As such the options are to leave the workplace and change employers.

2. Pursue The Matter Legally:

Additionally, you have the option of pursuing the matter legally. You can consult a lawyer on your case and if you have enough evidence then you can prove sexual harassment against your boss. You will then be able to get retribution and also help other women undergoing sexual harassment at your workplace.

Possible Fulfilling Remedies for Victims of Sexual Harassment

After a successful case whether internally with the HR office or through the court, you as a victim of sexual harassment will get retribution in several ways.

You stand to benefit with:

  • Getting back pay -most likely option if a victim of sexual harassment
  • Being hired- very popular in most workplaces
  • Getting promoted- a very fulfilling outcome for the victim
  • Having a reinstatement- a possibility for victims of sexual harassed
  • Get compensation for anticipated future losses- happens to those who have lost their jobs
  • Get compensatory damages for emotional pain and suffering
  • Get punitive damages meant to punish the employer- can very harsh on the perpetrator
  • Payment for attorney fees, expert witness fees, court costs among others-
  • Other actions to make the individual “whole”

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