“We need to turn the question around to look at the harasser, not the target. We need to be sure that we can go out and look anyone who is a victim of harassment in the eye and say, ‘You do not have to remain silent anymore.’”
– – Anita Hill
Sexual harassment in the workplace, at its heart, is not about sex, it’s about work. It’s about the right to do your job without worrying about being targeted based on your gender. Freedom to do your job means not having to experience sexual attention that is unwanted. Many people don’t know when they are experiencing harassment, they just feel like someone is acting in a way that’s just wrong for the workplace. Not everyone understands the in’s and out’s of sexual harassment like an employment lawyer does. Below are some real examples of sexual harassment to help you figure out your situation:
* Making sexual gestures, or displaying sexually suggestive pictures, cartoons, posters, calendars or websites. Also ambushing you with graphic pictures or videos on a mobile phone is not okay. The coworker down the hall, the supervisor filling out your review, or the owner writing your paycheck have absolutely no right to make you look at sexually graphic imagery, point blank.
* Making derogatory comments, slurs, or jokes of a sexual nature, graphic commentaries about an individual’s body, sexually degrading words used to describe an individual, suggestive or obscene communications. Most people know where the line is, unless they have been getting away with bad conduct for a long time. In any case, the smart employee, manager, or owner never approaches the line with a sexual joke or name calling using disgusting sexual labels. Commenting on how good an employee’s behind looks in a new pair of jeans isn’t just uncalled for, it may be part of a course of harassing conduct.
* Verbal sexual advances or propositions. This should be an easy one for people never to violate in the workplace, right? Nope, employees represented by McCarty Legal have experienced situations like being told that they would be in danger of losing their job if they didn’t have sex with an owner; being cornered at work and sexually assaulted by being grabbed, groped, or actually raped; being asked out on dates again and again, and then receiving an undeserved cut in hours, disciplinary notice, or a bad review. Sometimes employees are instead offered rewards for engaging in sexual behavior. The propositions can be made outright or suggested in a way that while not blatant, is still easily understood. The stories unfortunately do not end, but if you are reading this, you are informing yourself, and you should be proud for standing against being victimized. Be aware that when this happens to you, it is unlikely that it hasn’t happened to other employees working for or with the same person.
* Unnecessary touching, patting, hugging, or brushing against a person’s body. It’s truly unfortunate how common this is in the workplace, often being passed off as just being “friendly.” If it makes you uncomfortable, it’s time for your overly friendly coworker or supervisor to stop immediately, or better yet, to understand that the workplace is meant to be about work, not about fulfilling their need for physical contact.
* Remarks about sexual activity or speculations about previous sexual experience. When the boss starts talking about how his or her ex did or didn’t do certain things in bed, or makes knowing comments about how your date last night must have ended there, this is so very far from appropriate and may be harassment. There are so many types of comments that fall under this category, but almost all of them make you ask one of two questions: How is this my business? Or, How is this your business?
These are not all of the ways in which sexual harassment can occur. If you feel like you have been experiencing unwanted sexual behavior, take control of what is happening and contact an attorney to stand with you. Contact McCarty Legal for a free consultation, we’ve heard the stories of employees throughout Kentucky, and we want to hear yours.