More than 40 years ago, Redbook Magazine published a questionnaire on sexual harassment at work. More than 9,000 women responded, and Redbook published the results in its January 1976 issue. More than ninety percent (90%) of the women responding reported receiving at least one form of unwanted attention at work, which included, but was not limited to, “ogling, leering, pinching, or overt demands for sexual favors.” Seventy percent (75%) of the women characterized the unwanted attention as “demeaning,” “embarrassing,” or “intimidating.”
Have times changed since 1976? Likely not. Sexual harassment does not appear to be a thing of the past. ABC News recently conducted its own survey by assembling 10 women who worked in 10 different industries. The women discussed their experiences about being sexually harassed. When ABC asked how many of the participants had been sexually harassed over the course of their career, all 10 women raised their hands. ABC also asked the women if any of them experienced workplace sexual harassmentmore than twice, then asked if they experienced sexual harassment more than three times and then, more than four times. A majority of the 10 women raised their hands for each.
So what do you do when you are sexually harassed at work?
- Maintain a Record: Document the “who, what, where, and when.” Record the name of the harasser, where the harassment occurred, a description of the harassment, the date of the harassment, and the names of any witnesses.
- Reject the Conduct: Make it clear that the conduct is unwelcome and unwanted.
- Complain: Know your company’s sexual harassment policy, and make a written complaint to memorialize your notification to your employer.
- Consult an Attorney: If you experience retaliation as a result of your complaint or if the harassment does not stop, contact an employment attorney who can advise you of your rights.
Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the standard definition of sexual harassment is conduct that makes the workplace hostile to a reasonable person, either because of the severity the harassing incident(s), or because of the pervasiveness of less severe conduct. If you feel that you have been the victim of sexual harassment, do not be afraid to speak up.