Sexual harassment has long been a problem in the American workplace. In fact, some studies suggest that at least 80% of women will face sexual harassment during their lifetime.
There are few signs that this trend is on a decline either. Some workers are more vulnerable to being taken advantage of than others, however. Knowing more about this subject can help you protect yourself.
What constitutes sexual harassment?
There’s no one example that fully illustrates or defines “sexual harassment.” It can include both verbal threats or physical force. Requests for sexual favors and unwelcome sexual advances are another two examples of harassment. Any sexually charged conduct that either implicitly or explicitly creates a hostile work environment, interferes with an employee’s work performance or impacts a person’s employment may constitute sexual harassment.
A definition of sexual harassment published by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) describes this offense as “any nonconsensual sexual act proscribed by Federal, tribal, or State law, including when the victim lacks the capacity to consent.”
Which workers are most apt to endure sexual harassment?
A report published by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research in recent years shows that certain factors make women more vulnerable to being sexually harassed in the workplace than others, including when:
- Working for tips such as a server in a restaurant
- An employee is an undocumented immigrant
- Workers must isolate themselves for some time (like those working in domestic, hotel or agricultural jobs)
- Workplaces have a significant male-female power imbalance
It’s not unheard of for someone to specifically target someone due to their race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or belonging to another protected class with sexual harassment either.
What to do if you’ve faced sexual harassment in your workplace
Individuals who suffer sexual harassment in the workplace may experience lingering physical and mental health concerns that are challenging to overcome. These may inhibit victims from advancing in their careers. Sexual harassment is unlawful on many fronts. You can do your part to break the cycle of hurt by stepping up and holding the party who violated you accountable for their actions.