Understanding sexual harassment in the workplace is important for all employees regardless of industry, job status, age or gender. Sexual harassment can occur in any business at any level. Illinois residents should educate themselves about this topic so they can identify it appropriately and take action promptly.
The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission outlines some of the basic provisions of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which first identified sexual harassment as a form of discrimination. While this form of harassment can involve overt sexual advances, it can also involve far more subtle actions. This can sometimes make employees unsure as to whether or not they are really being harassed. In general, as noted in a document put forth by the State of Illinois Department of Human Rights, often times when people feel they could be the victims of employee harassment, they likely are correct.
Harassing conduct is unwanted and can include anything that creates an offensive or even hostile environment. Some examples of specific acts of sexual harassment include the following:
- One employee tells a joke that is sexual in nature. Another employee is uncomfortable with the content of the joke and even asks for such jokes not to be told. The person telling the joke has already harassed the offended party but the harassment could become greater if such jokes continue.
- At a person’s workstation, a calendar of swimsuit models is displayed. At the same desk, the screensaver features images of scantily clad women. Other employees are uncomfortable going to this person’s desk for meetings and even sometimes uncomfortable being around the person at other locations as well.
- During a performance review, a manager indicates that if the employee being reviewed were to wear certain clothing that is not directly related to the job or business, the chance for a promotion could be greater. This is overt harassment.
- In the lunchroom, one employee’s hugs begin taking on an uncomfortable sense to the hug recipient when the hugger’s hands touch parts of the body not generally considered part of a standard hug.
These are just some examples of what sexual harassment in the workplace can look like. Harassment victims are encouraged to let their managers or others in the company know of the acts and to file any complaints per the companies’ policies. If harassment does not cease, files can be brought against both the perpetrators and the companies.
Getting the facts about harassment can help people to avoid working in difficult situations for extended periods of time. Speaking up in such situations is always encouraged.