Since sexual harassment is complex and has evolved over time, it is hard to recognize when it takes place. As such, it can catch the victim unaware and they can be unprepared in handling such cases.
According to the U.S. Equal Employment Commission (EEC), sexual harassment takes place when a person experiences unwanted sexual attention in the form of sexual requests, favors, or verbal/physical harassment sexual in nature. The EEC clarifies it is illegal to harass employees, applicants, or employers based on their sex and or sexual orientation. In terms of what counts as the victim or harasser of a sexual harassment, the EEC distinguishes that harassers can be women or men that harass the opposite or same sex.
This means that harassment can take place at any time or moment and can happen to men or women. While the law does not take into consideration simple jest or isolated incidents of sarcastic comments, harassment becomes a legal problem when it negatively affects the victim’s work environment or results in a person’s termination/resignation. Ultimately, a sexual harassment claim arises because actions or words are unwelcomed and negatively impact the victim
It is important to note, however, that harassment can take place by any person within a work environment and includes people such as other employees, shift directors, clients, customers, or an employer’s employees.
By understanding how and what sexual harassment is, companies can take the necessary steps to prevent and stop it in its place. When confronted with sexual harassment, the EEC recommends that victims should first inform the harasser of their behavior by requesting they stop. If the harassment continues and results in a more hostile environment for the victim, the EEC then recommends that victims use an employee grievance and escalation process available through human resource departments. If the harassment continues after first taking these steps, the EEC can be contacted directly and will investigate the allegations of sexual harassment while looking at the whole record, including the circumstances, such as the nature of the sexual advances, and the context in which the alleged incidents occurred.
All employers and employees should take instances of sexual harassment in the work place seriously. Prevention is the most important step of preventing workplace sexual harassment and the EEC states that this can be accomplished through communication, establishing an adequate grievance process, being mindful of any complaints, and providing sexual harassment training sessions for each and every employee