The Harvey Weinstein Sexual Harassment debacle is the celebrity scandal du jour. But, make no mistake about it, male celebrity sex scandals are not uncommon. Workplace sexual harassment is big news these days. In fact, the magnitude of the problem may “break the internet” on all social media sites, thanks to the #metoo movement.
If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet. pic.twitter.com/k2oeCiUf9n
— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) October 15, 2017
Celebrities aren’t the only ones with a problem either. Workplace sexual harassment takes two different forms. Read on to learn how to protect your rights.
Quid Pro Quo and Hostile Work Environment
Quid Pro Quo harassment refers to an exchange.
Legally Blonde gives us a fantastic example. It happens when Elle Wood’s professor implies she will get a summer associate position in exchange for allowing his hand further up her skirt. He is engaging in quid pro quo harassment.
Quid pro quo sexual harassment has two requirements.
First, there must be an unwanted sexual advance. This often presents as a request for sexual favors. Next, your response to the request must affect your career.
Have you ever heard the phrase, “if you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours?” That is quid pro quo harassment in a nutshell. If you sleep with me (or some version of that), I’ll promote you.
Hostile work environment harassment affects the workplace atmosphere
Hostile work environment harassment is not easily definable. Unwelcome sexual advances, crude jokes, and offensive gender-based jokes are included in this type of harassment.
Courts look at a number of factors when determining if behavior rises to the level of hostile work environment. First, was the conduct verbal, physical, or both? Second, how often did the conduct occur? Was it a one time deal, or did it happen frequently? Third, was the conduct obviously offensive? Fourth, is the offender a co-worker or supervisor? Fifth, did more than one person participate? And, sixth, was the conduct directed at more than one person?
Still confused about what workplace sexual harassment looks like? Cosmopolitan published an excellent, and in-depth, piece about it in 2015.
What can I do about it?
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits sex discrimination in the workplace. And sexual harassment qualifies as discrimination under this Title VII.
There are a number of things you can do to protect yourself from unwanted sexual behavior.
Keep a record of the behavior
Records are power.
Write down the details of every offensive encounter. A good record will include the date of the incident, what time it occurred, who was involved, and who witnessed it. Don’t worry if you are the only witness.
Just write it down.
Tell your supervisor or a human resource officer. Show them the record of behavior you made. Tell them what you did to address the situation.
If you are comfortable confronting the offender, you can try to address the situation personally. Tell him or her to stop.
Sometimes people don’t realize their behavior is offensive. When speaking with a co-worker, be specific when describing the bad behavior.
It’s hard to talk about these things when you are friendly with your co-workers. You don’t want to hurt their feelings or ruin a budding friendship. But remember, you go to work to do a job. It may be better to have no friends at all than to have offensive work friends. After all, what kind of friend offends you all of the time?
File a complaint with the EEOC
Finally, you can file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The EEOC will investigate your complaint and pursue damages on your behalf. You do not need an attorney to file a complaint. The EEOC website will walk you through the process.
Don’t wait too long to file your complaint, though! You only have six-months (180 days) from the date of the incident to file a complaint.
It’s time to stand up for our rights, people! Don’t wait for someone else to come forward before you report bad behavior. Bad actors must be held accountable for their poor choices. Don’t sweep harassment under the rug. You deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. If someone won’t give it to you, get it for yourself.