THE LAW IS ON YOUR SIDE
By Barbara Bonar
If you suspect you may be a victim of sexual harassment, but you're not quite sure, this article will help. You'll discover the real definition of sexual harassment and the four questions that will help you find out:
Does this sound like you?
You have a job that you like and need. You’re pretty happy there. You do a good job and you take pride in your work. But lately a superior has been making your life miserable. It all started when he began complimenting you on your appearance. It was a bit flattering…at first. But then the compliments became more frequent and you began to feel really uncomfortable and embarrassed.
Because this person has the power to get you fired, you just went along with the flirtation, the teasing, the jokes, and the seemingly harmless sexual comments. But in your heart you were praying that it would just stop - so you could do your job in peace. (At that point, you really didn’t feel like you were a victim of sexual harassment.)
But it didn’t stop. He invited you to lunch or dinner – just the two of you. He may have touched you or even suggested that if you spend some intimate time with him; your job will be safe. Every day his requests become more forceful, even physical.
Suddenly you dread going to work. You’re not sleeping well. You may even try to look unattractive in order to avoid his advances. But still, he persists. You don’t know what to do. You’re afraid to complain because this person is powerful and well respected - and you don’t think anyone will believe you. And you still wouldn’t describe yourself as a victim of sexual harassment.
Sure, you could quit and try to find another job, or move to another department. But other than the harassment, you like your job and you worked hard to get where you are.
Since you’re reading this article there’s a good chance that you’re enduring a similar situation at work. But what can you do? You’re not a million dollar movie star or a popular TV anchorwoman. But guess what? When you’re a victim of sexual harassment the law is on your side.
Sexual harassment is illegal!
So, let’s get really clear about it. Whenever men and women work together simple flattery, teasing and jokes are often bounced around. The line gets drawn is when the flattery, teasing and jokes turn into unwelcome sexual advances, requests of sexual favors, and/or verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. When the harassment becomes so frequent and severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment (or you get fired or demoted) - it is sexual harassment. (A request for sexual favor is also harassment).
If this sounds familiar but you’re still not sure if you are a actually victim of sexual harassment, answer these four questions:
- Is the behavior directed toward you welcome or unwelcome?
- Does it make you feel uncomfortable or embarrassed?
- Does it keep you from performing your job well?
- Are you doing everything you can to avoid the harasser, including trying to not be noticed by that person?
If you answered yes to the above, then you are a victim of sexual harassment and it doesn’t matter if you are a man, or woman; or even if the harasser is the same gender as you. It will not go away on its own. The law is on your side and you have a right to stand up for yourself and stop being a victim.
Many courageous men and women, with the help of their lawyers, have taken action against employers who take part in (or allow) the inappropriate sexual behavior that you are experiencing. The best news is this:
Today courts are holding companies responsible for harassment and retaliation in the workplace more than ever before. This includes harassment by the company’s managers - or even its clients or customers.
When you’re ready to stop being a victim of sexual harassment and let the law protect you, call a lawyer who specializes in sexual harassment cases and tell him or her your story. We know what to do.
Once sexual harassment starts, it doesn’t stop on its own. It has to be legally stopped. The law is on your side and you deserve to be believed.
(If you think you are (or someone you care about is) a victim of sexual harassment and need someone to talk to, please feel free to call my office at: 859-431-3333)