Sexual Harassment in the Work Place: Is it still happening?

Sexual Harassment in the Work Place: Is it still happening?


Sexual harassment in the workplace for employees is still a reality for many companies in the United States.  The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) describes sexual harassment as a form of gender discrimation that is in violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.


 In 1998, the U.S. Supreme Court made employers more liable for sexual harassment of their employees.  According to SHRM 62% of companies now offer sexual harassment prevention training programs, and 97% have a written sexual harassment policy.  And, the trend of field complaints is down according to the EEOC by about 20% from when the law was changed in 1998 until 2009.


This is great news for workers that have been harassed in the past and were too embarrassed or frightened to report the incident.  I had an experience in my 20’s when I was a commercial real estate broker at a national firm.  I was the only woman on staff of thirty mostly 25-30 yr. old men and tolerated them talking about their sexual conquests the night before.  But never considered this sexual harassment; I just ignored it. 


What I did consider harassment was when my manager with whom I respected immensely and thought it was mutual, asked if he could go up to my apartment after a business meeting.  Maybe I was naive, but I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, until he said he wanted more.


I was not only humiliated, but so disillusioned by his actions I never really recovered.  We continued working together and nothing was said about that night, yet the experience still haunts me many years later.  This was, of course, before the laws were changed.


Today according to a telephone poll by Louis Harris and Associates on 782 U.S. workers: 31% of female workers reported they had been harassed at work and 7% of male workers said they were sexually harassed.  In both men and women 62% of the targets took no action.


The causes of sexual harassment at work can be complex.  Work relationships can be quite intimate with those involved sharing common interests and dependent on the supervisor’s approval for opportunities and career success, which can blur the professional boundaries.


Politics and problems caused by poor management, workplace bullying, frustration and job insecurity can create hostile environments that spill over into working relationships.  No occupation is immune  from sexual harassment, but reports of harassment of women is higher in fields that had traditionally excluded them, including blue collar environments, such as mining and firefighting , and white collar environments, such as surgery or technology.


The Equal Opportunity Employment Commission says, “Prevention is the best tool to eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace….(Employers) should clearly communicate to employees that sexual harassment should not be tolerated.”


My advice is that if you experience any sexual harassment in the workplace to immediately report the incident to the Human Resource department who takes these claims very seriously.  If there is no HR department then report the incident to the CEO of the firm.


Sexually harassment in any form should not be tolerated.  There are laws that protect both men and women from such unacceptable behavior.  I wish I had spoken up when I was harassed. 




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  • Rest assured the answer is a big fat YES if you work in TV or advertising.

  • In reply to jenmcautry:

    Hi JenJen- Yeah, I also worked in media and it's amazing what they get away with! It's like working in a men's locker room! TLR

  • In reply to TerriLeeRyan:

    OMG it's disgraceful and what are you supposed to do that won't get you alienated and labeled like you have an STD? My advice to young women is to avoid these sectors unless you can compromise or really tolerate.

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