Have You Been Sexually Harassed At Work

If you have been sexually harassed at work you are not alone. A 2016 survey by the Trades Union Congress and Everyday Sexism Project surveyed 1,533 people and the findings were shocking. A total of 52% of women report being sexually harassed at work; this number jumps to 63% of women 18 to 24 years old. However, 73 percent of women do not report this harassment. Women aren’t the only ones harassed at work, men and anyone who is harassed for their sexual orientation—real or presumed violates the Equality Act of 2010 which prohibits discriminatory and/or detrimental treatment on the grounds of sex.

The Statistics Are Shocking

Sexual harassment takes on many forms. It doesn’t have to include sexual advances or physical contact, but any dialog or treatment of a sexual or gender-discriminatory nature. It is considered harassment if initiated by a subordinate, colleague, or employer. The Trades Union Congress and Everyday Sexism Project found that:

  • 32% of women have been subject to unwelcome jokes of a sexual nature while at work.
  • 28% of women have been the subject of comments of a sexual nature about their body or clothes at work.
  • 23% of women have experienced unwanted touching – like a hand on the knee or lower back at work.
  • 20% of women have experienced unwanted verbal sexual advances at work.
  • 12% women have experienced unwanted sexual touching or attempts to kiss them at work.
    These are not the only types of harassment but are the most common. For example, if you work in an office setting and have been reprimanded for refusing to wear shorter skirts or show more cleavage to make more sales.

There Are Less Statistics For LGBT—And Almost None For Men

Statics show that as of 2017 36% of openly LGBT employees are sexually harassed or discriminated against at work. This includes being “outed” at work. Therefore 51% of LGBT individuals keep their sexual orientation to themselves.

It is incorrect to believe that men cannot be sexually harassed or that the criteria for harassment of men is unique. The criteria are the same but there is currently not a reliable source of statistics for the sexual harassment of men. However, men are even less likely than women to report harassment.

What Should You Do If You Are Sexually Harassed At Work?

If physically threatened the first thing you should do is get to safety. Then, you can report the harassment through the proper channels at work. If you have a Human Resources department, start there. If the harassment is of a physical nature you may choose to file a police report. Regardless of your choice to file a police report you have the right to hire an attorney to ensure you are not retaliated against for reporting your harassment, and to ensure the sexual harassment properly handled.

What Happens After Your Report Harassment?

Many companies have a zero-tolerance policy for workplace harassment of any kind. Even with a zero-tolerance policy harassment, discrimination and bullying are sometimes difficult to prove. For example, was the sexually explicit joke told to you in private or in a group? If told in a group setting, will others confirm that the joke was told? If shared privately, it’s your word against theirs. Or did you overhear a joke in the breakroom that wasn’t shared directly with you?

There are many variables. Regardless it is your right to report the incident and create a paper trail. This will likely be confidential and only the involved parties will be questioned.

What If Your Employer Does Nothing?

Unfortunately, many employers don’t have a sufficient system in place for dealing with sexual harassment. Or, they don’t understand what qualifies for harassment. If the response you receive is something along the lines of “I’m sure he meant nothing by it.”, “But do you like her?”, or “It was just a joke?” then they are participating in the violation of your rights. If your employer does nothing or your employer is the one harassing, you and there is no one else you can report harassment to it’s time to seek out legal assistance.

You have the right as an employee to have a safe and respectful workplace. If your place of employment has not responded appropriately to sexual harassment reach out to the team at Gulbenkian Andonian today.