If you’ve been paying attention over the past year, then you know workplace discrimination and sexual harassment is big news. It seems every day there is a new story of a person in power abusing a position of trust or authority, and women are more often than not the targets of this type of employment discrimination. But do you really know what sexual harassment is, and how to identify it? If you suspect you’ve been the victim of sexual harassment, a Charleston sexual harassment lawyer can help you determine if you have a case. To help, here are five common myths about sexual harassment.
It Only Affects Women
False. It is true that the vast majority of claims filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), alleging sexual harassment, were filed by women. However, as of 2011, over 16 percent were actually filed by men. Never let someone tell you a man cannot be the victim of discrimination based on gender.
It is Always Sexual Harassment to Discuss Sexual Topics at Work
False. Now, it’s a terrible idea to allow casual conversations about sex to encroach upon business. If you’re at work, keep it professional. That said, the does not impose such strict thought control on the public. You are free to discuss just about anything you want. The key is whether the communication is welcome or unwelcome. As the EEOC clarifies, sexual harassment occurs when a person makes unwelcome advances or creates a hostile environment of sexual or pervasive and offensive remarks. So, it’s a bad idea. But it’s not necessarily unlawful in all cases.
It is Always Sexual Harassment to Ask Out a Coworker
False. Many people have met their future spouses at work. We spend the majority of our waking lives at work. We often get to know our co-workers very well and make lasting friendships at work. We should certainly hope society never outlaws the ability to form meaningful and even romantic attachments with people we’ve met on the job. Of course, there are distinct lines that should not be crossed. Sexual harassment occurs when a person is making unwelcome advances.
Of course, some companies have anti-fraternization policies forbidding inter-office relationships. Also, superiors should not be engaging in any time or romantic relationships with subordinates that could create a power differential. The key is not creating a quid pro quo (this for that) arrangement. In short, it’s not per se harassment to ask out a co-worker, but it’s incumbent upon all of us to make sure our advances are welcome. If not, they must stop immediately. Again, the safe answer is to avoid this type of behavior at work altogether.
It Has to be Directed at Me to Be Sexual Harassment
False. Sexual harassment can include offensive remarks or lewd behavior that makes others feel uncomfortable. The EEOC has found employers guilty of sexual harassment in cases where male employees posted pornographic materials around the office, cases where an employee used profane language, and even in a case where female employees made sexual remarks about their exploits openly around co-workers. If the conduct rises to a level of making the workplace hostile and unsuitable for others, then it could qualify.
I Have to Be Fired in Order to Do Something About It
False. Sexual harassment can include refusing promotions, termination based on gender or unwillingness to comply with advances, or just creating a hostile work environment. Termination is not required.