Sexual Harassment Affects Both Genders
When one thinks of sexual harassment, one automatically thinks of a man harassing a woman in some way. This patently would be wrong thinking; there are many instances of women sexually harassing men, women harassing other women and men harassing other men.
What constitutes sexual harassment? From the EEOC: “Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual's employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual's work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.
Sexual harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances, including but not limited to the following:
Â· The victim as well as the harasser may be a woman or a man. The victim does not have to be of the opposite sex.
Â· The harasser can be the victim's supervisor, an agent of the employer, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or a non-employee.
Â· The victim does not have to be the person harassed but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.
Â· Unlawful sexual harassment may occur without economic injury to or discharge of the victim.
Â· The harasser's conduct must be unwelcome.”
While some actions are clearly delineated under the law, other actions are more ambiguous and fall under ”˜what makes one uncomfortable’. For instance, touching another person in an inappropriate manner is clearly sexual harassment. Telling an off color joke may make someone uncomfortable, or it may not, so might be sexual harassment. The unclear sections of the sexual harassment laws is what makes sexual harassment cases so hard to both prove and prosecute, and the misunderstanding of the law leads to unnecessary claims. To assist in dealing with ambiguous harassment, the person being harassed is to tell the person doing the harassing behavior to stop; then if it continues, it becomes sexual harassment and should be reported.
It is hard to imagine for most how a male could be sexually harassed, but with more women obtaining positions of power, the instance of sexual harassment towards males has increased. Furthermore, the issue of male on male sexual harassment is also on the rise. It is because sexual harassment has more to do with intimidation than sex, the harassment is used to hurt someone or exert power over them.
From 1992 to 2008 the numbers of males reporting sexual harassment claims to the EEOC had doubled from 8% to 16%. "While some people may think sexual harassment of male employees is a joke, the issue is real," says David Grinberg, spokesperson for the EEOC. "We are seeing more of it, and such conduct has serious legal consequences for employers."
Whether the actual instance of sexual harassment towards males has increased or just more males are reporting them is a moot point. Many think that the focus on sexual harassment towards women has opened the eyes of many males to sexual harassment leading to hostile work environments and encouraged them to start speaking out.
There are a few stories that arise occasionally of male on male sexual harassment within trucking. D was a married over the road driver who was delivering produce to a market on the east coast. He had spoken with a male/male team on the dock earlier. He was walking into his trailer when the team came up behind him and shoved him up against the produce boxes and tried to disrobe him while making obscene comments. He fought back and they ran off. He ran out, they were gone. While this bordered on assault, D did not think they meant him any real harm; they just wanted to harass him.
B’s story is clear-cut sexual harassment; that of someone with the power to determine career advancement demanding sex for B to further his career. B was a student out with his trainer. His trainer kept talking about his sexual exploits. Finally, after B asked him to please clean up his conversations, the trainer told B that he would have to perform an act to be passed into getting his own truck. Luckily, B had recorded the trainer when he said this so had proof to take to the company. The trainer was terminated and B was assigned a different trainer.
No matter what gender is involved in sexual harassment, the hardest thing to do is prove that the sexual harassment occurred; many cases are he said/she said. As in the case of B, he was able to record the harassment, which is one way to garner proof. Another is to document everything that is said. To do this one needs a notebook to record time, date, location and what was said. There should be no open lines in between instances or occurrences.
Sexual harassment can create more than just a hostile environment; it can drive people from their current jobs or careers. Many people just quit without reporting the event due to fear of reprisals, others are terminated for not submitting.
J was a dispatcher, the only male in the office of a small company outside of the owner. The women he worked with enjoyed sharing ”˜male bashing’ jokes and cartoons on the computers and would include him in the sendings. He tried at first to ignore what was going on, but became increasingly uncomfortable. He did ask the women to stop sending him the jokes and such but they did not stop. J finally just quit and found another job. When asked why he did not report the harassment, he replied, “I was embarrassed, did not think anyone would take me seriously and I did not want it on my record.”
Avoiding sexual harassment takes people treating others in the workplace with respect no matter the gender. Also, it takes understanding what sexual harassment is in context with the job and being able to define the difference between someone being attracted to you or using their position to harass you. Document the harassment if it occurs and do report it if necessary, it will make the workplace better for everyone.