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Sexual Harassment in the Construction Industry

Construction has always been a male dominated industry. This has long opened females up to the risk of sexual harassment. Today, sexual harassment is no longer limited to male-on-female harassment there are instances of male-on-male harassment as well. Because construction-related workforces have traditionally been composed primarily of male employees, it has created an air of machismo that may cause some men to be insensitive, rude, or even harassing towards female employees and other male employees who may find their behavior offensive.

Women who seek employment in construction often face gender discrimination in the hiring process. Hiring managers—especially those with traditional or “old-school” views on labor and women—often look down on women as inferior candidates, regardless of their qualifications. Women who work on construction sites often have to deal with inappropriate comments, gestures, unwarranted sexual advances, and in some cases, sexual abuse and rape. Unfortunately, many male employees do not consider female employees as their colleagues, and instead simply see them as “women” to flirt with or harass. Women who reject this unwanted conduct usually receive more abuse, leading to their resignation and in some cases they are terminated.

Male workers can also be the victim of gender discrimination in the construction industry. Men who are perceived to be effeminate or “not man enough” may be harassed by male co-workers. Some workplaces may have a tradition of hazing that is sexual in nature, which may be condoned by foreman and managers as harmless. They may feel that “boys will be boys” and therefore, such conduct is “no big deal.” For example, if a group of men grab a newcomer and pretend to rape him as a joke, while this may seem like nothing but a big joke to them, the act itself may constitute sexual harassment. Homosexuals and men who are perceived to be homosexuals are at great risk of being sexually harassed. Sometimes, other male workers who either dislike homosexuals, feel that they are incompetent or unworthy of their jobs, or simply do not want to work with homosexuals, may harass their homosexual co-workers in the hopes of making them resign or quit.

Fortunately, in recent years, more and more women and men have had the courage to complain about sexual harassment in the construction industry. Sexual harassment is a demeaning and humiliating experience that takes away the victim’s control. With more proactive action within the industry including workplace safety assessments and worker education, the construction industry will reduce the instances of sexual harassment in the workplace.