Sexual harassment in the workplace is the tip of iceberg phenomenon. Many victims are reluctant to speak up due to the perceived stigma and even victim blaming they often have to receive when reaching out to others. On October last year, there was a social movement against sexual harassment and sexual assault that went viral globally. More than 500.000 Twitter users, both men and women, retweeted using the hashtag #MeToo and opened up about their experience. Within 24 hours, there were millions of posts with the same hashtag on Facebook.
HR Daily Advisor reported earlier this year that 17 percent employees between ages of 18 to 34 felt sexually harassed at workplace, 30 percent respondents 35 to 55 age groups also admitted the same. However, study found that more than 2 in 3 working women (72 percent) who have been harassed in the working space did not report the incident. When asked about the reasons why, 40 percent said that they don’t want to be labelled as a troublemaker, 22 percent said that it was their word against their harassers, and 18 percent were afraid to report in fear of losing their job.
There is no doubt that even the slightest form of sexual harassment can change the victims’ life entirely. According to a survey by Harvard Business Review, sexual assault at work could decrease employee morale, self-confidence, as well as productivity. The study also showed that men and women generally agree on the term of sexual harassment but they disagree on how often it may occur. While the act can happen to both gender, women are more conscious and sensitive of its signs. Too-close talking, dirty jokes, suspicious invitation to meet outside work, or too many personal questions are common signs of sexual harassment. Additionally, this type of harassment is not only done physically, but also verbally or written form.
If you happen to be a victim or the one who witnesses the incident, here is what you should do:
Understand company policy – First, you should make sure that your company has anti-harassment policy, otherwise, your words will be against you as the employer might consider you as a threat. When the company does not provide any protection in such issue, employers might do whatever they can to protect company’s good name. Even when you are being the victim, there are chances that you might be fired or demoted when reporting such issue.
Therefore, you should check about such policy on the organisation’s guide book or ask it directly from the human resource department. If the policy is already established, you can follow the steps provided so employer can do immediate investigation on the case. As a result, the harassment can be stopped immediately.
Documents the harassment — By documenting the harassment, you can have proof to report the culprit. Make sure to list all the name of people who witness the incident. Then, submit the report to your supervisor or manager, or human resources department. Yet, if the perpetrator is your supervisor and you do not feel comfortable with the continuing behaviour, you can complaint to the other higher-ups. Another option is to consider talking to another manager or supervisor and make sure that they can help you stop the unwelcome behaviour.
Understand general policy – If the above tips cannot help you, you can report the wrongdoer to Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or organisation equals to EEOC in your area. However, before that, you should understand the general policy of sexual harassment. It is important to know whether you are the one who EEOC should protect or not. By understanding their policy, you can assure that you are protected by the law and can go against the offender, otherwise every word you are stating will go against yourself. As EEOC works for government, you can charge them with the help of EEOC within either 180 or 300 days of the incident.
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