Sexual harassment creates a hostile work environment and often escalates to more profound criminal acts. Federal laws impose strict penalties for employers who fail to protect their workers or participate in the heinous acts themselves. The laws require all employers to provide open-door policies allowing victims of sexual harassment to report the offender.
Whistleblower laws assist victims in reporting employers who are a party to the acts and provide protection for the whistleblower. Workers who believe they are a victim educate themselves about the three types of behavior that constitutes sexual harassment in the workplace.
1. Sending Sexually Explicit Text Messages or Emails to an Employee:
Sending sexually explicit text messages or emails constitutes sexual harassment and provides concrete evidence of the acts. Typically, the aggressor starts by sending images, such as bikini-clad women or topless men to their victim. If the victim doesn’t call the sender out for being inappropriate, the messages and emails progress to nude images and later images or videos of sexual acts.
Workers who fall victim to this form of sexual harassment are often gaslighted by the offender. They play it off as an innocent act or provide some blameless excuse for sending the images. If the victim fails to report their attacker, the employer might take the failure to act as consent or condoning the behavior later on regardless of how uncomfortable the victim is with the unwanted messages.
2. Verbal Sexual Advances Toward a Worker:
Verbal sexual advances toward a worker start with the attacker telling sexual jokes to a larger group of workers that includes their target. This is the beginning of a pattern and leads to further sexual discussions. Most sexual harassment policies prohibit sexual jokes in the workplace around members of the opposite sex for this exact reason.
Next, the aggressor starts discussing their sexual experience with or around their victim. The act is an attempt to make the victim comfortable sharing sexually-based details about their life and failing to suspect what lies ahead. If the victim participates in the discussions or jokes, the aggressor’s actions lead to verbal sexual advances that are played off as joking or teasing.
Unfortunately, individuals who continue in the course of action assume that their victim is willfully participating in inappropriate work behaviors. Further forms of sexual harassment occur, and the aggressor retaliates against the victim if they are reported.
3. Inappropriate Physical or Sexually-Based Contact:
Inappropriate physical or sexually-based contact is the most common types of sexual harassment. The form of harassment starts with acts that seem innocent at first and escalate to more aggressive actions. It includes hugging or kissing workers that progress to touching or fondling of the genitals and breasts.
The aggressors are often clever at hiding their tracks and planning their attacks when witnesses aren’t present. It is supervisors, employers, and upper management who are most often accused of the acts. They threaten termination of the victim’s employment if the victim reports them or doesn’t go along with the unwanted contact. Too often, unreported physical or sexual contact leads to rape or other forms of sexual assault.
Sexual harassment isn’t restricted to one gender. It happens to both women and men. Federal laws protect workers against the form of harassment and offer a legal avenue for victims to take action. The beginning of the inappropriate acts often starts as innocent joking, but it escalates to more dangerous acts, such as assault or rape. Victims of sexual harassment are protected under whistleblower laws that help them report a hostile work environment and employers who are the culprit themselves or fail to protect their workers.