On October 5, 2017, the New York Times published a news story that shed light on decades-long sexual misconduct allegedly committed by renowned Hollywood Film Producer Harvey Weinstein. This story, which outlined multiple accounts of how Weinstein habitually harassed women in the film industry, emboldened even more victims from all walks of life to step forward and publicly share their painful experiences of sexual harassment. The many accusations that ensued not only identified other influential people who have committed sexual misconduct in the past, they also revealed just how prevalent the problem of sexual harassment actually is in the workplace.
What is Sexual Harassment?
One of the biggest lessons to learn from the controversy surrounding the Hollywood Sexual Harassment Scandal is that harassment can happen to anyone, anywhere at any time. Moreover, sexual harassment is not a problem confined to the past. There are countless people suffering in silence today, either because they don’t know what to do about it, or they’re too intimidated to speak out. Harassment of any kind in the workplace is a serious issue. Not only is it unethical, it is illegal. Acts of harassment violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, (ADEA), and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, (ADA).
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines sexual harassment as any unwelcome or offensive conduct of a sexual nature. Such conduct typically includes:
- Physical Contact
- Unwanted Advances
- Offensive Humor
- Threats and intimidation
- Ridicule or Mockery
- Display of Offensive Objects or Imagery
- Interference with Work Duties
It’s important to note that the law does not prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that bear no reasonable consequences. However, harassment becomes illegal when:
- It is committed with the intention of influencing employment status or an employment decision.
- It is so frequent or severe that it creates an intimidating and hostile work environment.
What to do if you Feel Harassed:
It isn’t always easy to stand up for yourself, especially when you have a lot to lose by confronting people in power. However, it’s important to remember that not only can coming forward to report harassment end up saving your own life, it can prevent others from being victimized in future as well. If at all you are working in a situation where you feel harassed:
- If it’s safe enough to do so, tell the person harassing you to stop – but only do this as long as you feel comfortable confronting them directly.
- If confronting a harasser directly is too difficult or unsafe, find a copy of your company’s anti-harassment policy and review it. Once you understand what the company policy is, report and prosecute the harasser under that policy.
- If the company you work for doesn’t have an official anti-harassment policy, talk with a separate supervisor or authority figure who has the power to address the situation. They may be able to help stop the misconduct.
- If following internal procedures doesn’t provide a solution, file charges of discrimination with the EEOC.
How to help if you Notice Harassment:
Victims of sexual harassment do not have to be subjected to it directly for harassment to be relevant. Anyone affected by offensive conduct, including those who observe it, also have a right to complain about it. If you see something, do something:
- Document details of any harassment you see as soon as it happens.
- Collect any evidence you can, especially written evidence, of any sexual misconduct you observe. If what you witness ends up being litigated, this evidence could be of help to the victims of harassment.
- Privately reach out to the person(s) you witness being harassed and offer your support. They may be reluctant to fight back because they feel alone. There’s strength in numbers.
- Share what you know with the Human Resources department of your company, or an authority figure who can put a stop to any harassment you witness.
Passiveness has the unfortunate effect of enabling sexual harassment. If someone engaging in sexual misconduct isn’t reprimanded for it promptly, their behavior will likely escalate and recur until someone makes it clear that such behavior is unacceptable. If you like what you just read from our blog, you’ll love the various informative workshops and events listed on our website and social media. Whether you’re interested in personal development, or overall improvement of your business, give us a call at 1 (888) 823-7757 to find out how RISE Programs can help you break past your daily struggles and start soaring in success.