Sexual harassment is no joke, but we are seeing more and more stories in the news about sexual harassment in the workplace.

Who Is At Risk For Sexual Harassment?

According to a survey conducted by Cosmopolitan, 1 in every 3 women between the ages of 18 and 34 are sexually harassed in their workplace.

However, men, homosexuals, and transgenders are also susceptible to sexual harassment.

What Is Considered Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment can be broken down into two different categories: Quid Pro Quo and Hostile Work Environment.

Quid Pro Quo can simply be defined as a “give me this in exchange for that” situation.

For example, an employer would persuade an employee to engage in sexual acts with them in return for a pay raise, promotion, ect.

A hostile work environment is when employees are subject to unwanted sexual acts, advances, lewd messages, or inappropriate innuendos.

Most times these unwanted acts are reported by the person receiving them; however, if the acts are severe enough that they also affect other employees that are not being directly targeted, an employee can report sexual harassment.

This does not include sexual innuendos or verbal discussions by employers or employees who are not directing their crude talk at anyone specific in the workplace.

For example, if a few men in the workplace gather around the coffee station and make indecent gestures or remarks about their body or a female’s body, this cannot be considered a hostile work environment.

You may ask your supervisor – if he is not one of the men engaging in crude behavior – to ask them to move their ignorant chatter someone more private, or outside of the working environment, but you are best not trying to take legal action because you may not have a case.

Hostile work environment does not only refer to sexual innuendos, but can also be considered prejudice against a certain sex, race, or even pregnant women.

For example, if a woman becomes pregnant and her boss suddenly changes the way he speaks to her, demands certain things of her, or even publicly treats her cruelly, that woman could consider it a hostile work environment.

Examples of sexual harassment:

  • Requests for sexual favors.
  • Lewd pictures, emails, letters, drawings, or text messages.
  • Undesired contact, such as groping or inappropriate touch.
  • Indecent behavior/provocative language or suggestions.
  • Hounding inappropriate phone calls, texts, letters, or emails.
  • Demands/threats for sexual acts in order to keep a job, position, or salary.
  • An offer of benefits, promotions, or favor in return for sexual acts.

What Actions Should You Take If You Are Subject To Sexual Harassment?

If you have been subject to sexual harassment in your workplace your first step should be to reach out to your HR Department.

The best way to approach a situation, especially if you feel embarrassed or timid about a situation, is to explain your situation in writing and then send to your HR Manager.

If you are a part of a smaller company that does not have a designated HR Department, then your first action should be talking to an attorney and seeing what can be done.

If your company does have an HR Department, and they refuse to take your case seriously, do not sit back – reach out to an attorney.

Read Susan Fowler’s case, for example.

What Actions Should You Take To Protect Your Employees From Sexual Harassment?

It is a no-brainer that sexual harassment can ruin a companies reputation – sometimes to the point of no return.

Take Uber’s case for example.

Even though they have not shut down their company, with the multiple stories coming out about prejudice behavior and sexual harassment in their offices, many people who were once fans and supporters have begun to delete the app and refuse to support their company.

Uber’s reputation has been run through the mud and has attracted all the press along the way.

Protect your employees by having strict no-tolerance policies when it comes to sexual harassment.

Inform and train your employees how to look out for such behavior and the consequences of performed actions.

By clearly outlining and informing your employees what is considered sexual harassment in a written and demonstrated policy, you help remove any allegations that your company will not protect your employees or that you support such behavior.