Sexual harassment occurs when an individual is discriminated against based on his or her gender. Usually, perpetrators of sexual harassment are in a position of power, victimizing a subordinate or a colleague. Women, who comprise about one third of employees working in the manufacturing industry, are at a higher risk for sexual harassment, especially in an environment where they are outnumbered by males. It is important to remember that victims of sexual harassment can be female or male. Remember, sexual harassment can take place regardless of title or position.
What constitutes sexual harassment?
Sexual harassment may occur in many forms, some more subtle than others. It is important to remember that sexual harassment really means gender. In other words, sexual harassment is really harassment based on the persons’ gender. Sexual harassment can occur based upon a dislike of males or females. Sexual harassment can occur in the traditional sense of offensive touching for sexual gratification or even sexual assaults. Sexual harassment can take place out in the open, in full view of the entire workplace, or within the privacy of an office or cubicle. Whatever the nature of the sexual harassment, it is still wrong, and is a problem that must be addressed. Some examples of sexual harassment are:
A person in a position of power requesting or requiring sexual behaviors in return for a reward aka Quid pro quo: This is occurs when employees are propositioned with demands for sex in exchange for an employment benefit or career opportunity. Not only is this behavior a grave abuse of power on the part of the harasser, it allows unqualified or less qualified applicants to be promoted or hired over more qualified applicants who refused the proposition of sex. Examples of this include:
- a supervisor or manager offering an employee a promotion in exchange for sexual favors
- a hiring manager requiring that a job applicant give sexual favors prior to being hired
- a supervisor or manager offering not fire an employee, even if they deserve to be fired, on the condition that they consent to having sex
A person in a position of power threatening negative consequences unless sexual favors are provided: This is another abuse of power. A man or woman who fears for his or her job security may simply give in to the inappropriate requests, for fear of the economic insecurity of becoming unemployed. Examples of this include:
- a supervisor or manager who threatens to fire an employee unless he or she consents to having sex with him
- a supervisor or manager threatening to giving a lower performance review to an employee unless he or she consents to his sexual advances
- a supervisor or manager denying an employee a well-deserved promotion or raise because he or she refuses his sexual advances
- a supervisor or manager demoting an employee who refused his sexual advances
- a supervisor or manager giving heavier or unfair workloads or even an unpopular shift to an employee because he or she refuses his sexual advances
A hostile work environment based on sex: This is another abuse of power. A man or woman may experience sexual harassment because of their gender. Examples of this include:
- offensive jokes related to gender and unwanted sexual attention
- unwanted physical contact that is sexual in nature, such as kissing, stroking, hugging, tickling
- overly persistent unwanted sexual advances
- the display of inappropriate or pornographic material in the workplace, such as lewd posters or calendars
- giving of gifts that are very sexual in nature
Sexual harassment in any case is a very serious matter, and should not be taken lightly. If you are a victim of sexual harassment, do not shrug it off. Contact your Human Resources and or Office of Equal Employment Opportunity and protect your rights.