Have You been Sexually Harassed at Work?

Have You been Sexually Harassed at Work?

Illinois makes sexual harassment in the workplace illegal. But what is considered sexual harassment? Where do we draw then line on what constitutes just bad behavior from sexual harassment? And when does it become an issue?

In my mid-twenties, I was working in commercial real estate as a broker. I was the only woman in this thirty broker office, which was filled with sexually charged men between the ages of 25-30. Most of them were single and would share their sexual conquests with the guys in the office. With all of us working in cubes, it was impossible to ignore the dialog. All I could think about was I never would date a guy under thirty!

It was distasteful, but not what I would consider sexual harassment. But, I had a general manager who favored his top brokers, of which I was one of them. Being "one of the guys" worked for the most part, until one night I had dinner with my boss to talk about our real estate deals. After dinner he walked me to my apartment and asked "if he could come up." This wasn't a date, but at that moment it sure felt like one. I was hurt that he would even ask. Our work relationship would never be the same. He crossed the line.

Was this sexual harassment? In my opinion it was. I didn't report him to HR, I just ignored the advance and carried on, yet I was deeply hurt. The Illinois definition of sexual harassment consists of an unwelcome sexual advance or requests from either a man or woman showing suggestive photos, making unwelcome advances, requesting sexual favors or threatening an employee's job if they do not comply.

An employee can file charges against the employer as well as the harasser if they feel they have been sexually harassed. Unfortunately, it is not so easy to prove the harassment, as in my case. The words don't necessarily say sex, yet you know when you are harassed. No one should be placed in this position in the workplace. If you feel you are being sexually harassed report it to the HR department.

Just know that the person accused will be in denial and your work relationship will be strained. Unfortunately, it may mean you need to look for another job. Yet by taking a stance, you may save others from experiencing this harassment. It is time to speak up. I wish I did.

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  • When I was student teaching my cooperating teacher wanted me to discuss things with him with a beer so we went to a bar where he told me how his wife didn't understand him and put his hand on my knee. This was 1974 and the word sexual harassment didn't even exist. I crossed my legs and accidentally knocked his hand off, crossed my arm and proceeded to talk about my boyfriend. I felt like I had been such an idiot to go to a bar with him but the women cooperating teachers were having the students over to dinner so I thought this was the male version. I went home to my apartment and got crazy drunk, something I had never done before or since. It was an awful feeling but luckily it all worked out for me. I was fortunate but others have suffered. I feel for them.

  • In reply to Kathy Mathews:

    Thanks, Kathy for your comment. I feel for you. Women in the the workplace in the 70's and 80's were trying so hard to be successful and to fit in. I feel so sorry for those of us that had to deal with this sexual harassment. Fortunately, the law now supports us.

  • The law supports you, but you will have to look for a new job. I had a boss who once made an extremely inappropriate remark at an all-staff meeting. HR called me in to talk about my options because the whole company was so offended. I filed a complaint and immediately started looking for a new job. He was punished, but he was still going to be my boss. There was no way that was going to work out well for me.

  • In reply to Shari Schmidt:

    Shari, thank for your comment. This is the unfortunate part of being sexually harassed at work. Once the accused is revealed, it makes it almost impossible to work with them forcing you to look for a new job. Not so easy in this sluggish economy.

  • From a guy point......Men are Pigs....

    How long does anyone have to hear some of the stuff I witness and came across in the job field?

    I do feel sorry for all those wives out there who do not know about their cheating husbands. Especially the wives whose husbands who travel for business. I do notice that the guys who do cheat on their wives, these women are so good looking when I meet them at the office picnic or Christmas party. It just baffels my mind why men have to go outside the home to get sex.

    Many, many years ago, I had a job when I was 15. Stock boy at Chicago department store. The company thought I was 17, due I had to lie to get the job. On my 16th Birthday, a woman supervisor named Mary, a beautiful 27 year old divorce woman from Tampa, came up to me and laid a big wet kiss on my lips. She did this as she grabbed my rear. Mary said 'Happy Birthday" then rubbed her cute nose on my nose. Her body pressed against mine. She must have thought I was 18 then. And no, I did not complain to the HR. Oh boy, what a kiss. All I can say is if Mary is out their, thank you! She would be 62 years old by now. Mary always smile at me when she saw me. I left the job to go back to high school.

    If I did that today to a young lady at work I liked, I would be in cuffs within the hour for attempted rape and be without a job.

    At another job in the early 90's, the men and women would exchange VHS porn movies with each other. I believe my female boss and I were the only ones who were not into that. I would do the office lottery pool, but I think being in the office video porn exchange group was over the edge. But listening to the Porn titles that were discussed did make me laugh. The entire corporate office employees were sleeping with each other. Mixing work with having a personal relationship with another employee does not work out. Plus, the women in the office I worked with, were not Ladies, but "Ho's".

    I went to a cathoilc all boys high school, and I remember we had the football coach fill in for our religion teacher one day. The coach talked about the women we might marry someday. Just stuck in my mind of how the coach said to us don't walk down the street with a woman you married who slept with many other guys. Be with a woman who has respect.

    I see these other blogs on Chicago Now preaching about sex and relationship. To me, people forgot what Love is all about. Call me old fashion, but people cannot separate the difference between love and sex these days. I met a woman who told me she was married several times. First marriage was for sex, second marriage was for love, third marriage was for money. One guy I worked with was married five times and he was 32. Three of those wives he met on a job.

    All I can say if you are poor, no one will love you in this world. So work on making money at the job then chasing someone who works with you.

    We also see stories in the news about teachers and students. I was a high school teacher in the 90's. i was offered sex by female students who were failing in my course. I did not want to end up on the 5 o'clock news. I always kept my classroom door open. One girl, Gloria, offered me sex, but later wanted to give me a Columbian necktie after she got her "F". Somewhere in this world, Sexy Gloria must have six kids by now.

    I ended up losing that job for not changing the grades for several members of the football team who failed my course. The Principal black balled me in the school district of ever getting another job. In the meantime, he overlooked other male teachers who were getting back rubs by female students. And an Art teacher department head who were getting it on with a young intern in his office.

    Gee, I could write a book alone about what I saw as a teacher in high school.

    So Sex and Office work does not mix. Plus, it can put you under legal costs later on if one party turns on you after the relationship ends on a sour note.

    For all you women out there who are getting harassed on the job...just tell the guy who is grabbing you, you have a big boyfriend who will kick their a** if they ever touch you again. If that does not work,call the Cops. Then call a lawyer.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    Thanks, Cubs Talk for your comment. Lots of good information here.

  • Just saw a list of Major Retail Companies that will be closing max. number of stores in the coming year.....here they are below.

    Office Depot....250 stores
    Game Stop.....600 stores
    Office Max.....175 stores
    Radio Shack.....550 stores
    Barnes & Noble......240 stores
    Best Buy.............250 stores
    Sears..........125 stores
    Kmart.........225 stores
    JC Penny..........350 stores

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