It's a new era.
People who have been sexually harassed or assaulted are finally speaking out. The accumulation of our society’s predatory sexual behavior has finally reached a tipping point, such that those who’ve been targeted now feel their strength in numbers. The time has come to stand up to these predators and tell them to back off.
Nearly 13,000 charges of sexual harassment were filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in 2016. But from the million-strong #MeToo movement, it’s clear that far, far more incidents go unreported. The laws on the books are there to protect women and men from lewd behavior and unwanted sexual advances, but many victims have their own reasons for choosing not to fight, most often the fear of retaliation.
But not everyone got the memo?
With the floodlight now illuminating the pervasiveness of inappropriate remarks, unwelcome advances and physical abuse taking place at the office, there’s hope that it will help curtail the bad behavior. But if the #MeToo movement isn’t enough to prevent bad conduct, and your boss or salacious co-worker don’t catch on that unwanted sexual advances won’t be tolerated, here are your best moves for handling workplace predators.
1. Document any harassment.
If the screensaver on your boss’s computer is a slideshow of scantily clad women, or he likes to make off-color comments full of sexual innuendo, take notes. Record and date any conversations that embarrassed you, and use your cell phone to photograph his inappropriate computer screen. Document any evidence showing “hostile work environment harassment” -- your legal recourse. Generally, one isolated incident isn’t enough to prove a hostile environment so be diligent about keeping records. Most likely, you will need to demonstrate a pattern.
2. Say No. Say it again. Say it loud and clear.
If you are personally harassed by a boss or colleague, you need to tell him or her in no uncertain terms that the behavior is inappropriate. If the behavior persists, then you need to report it to Human Resources. Keep in mind that you will need documentation. So keep records of all conversations.
3. Trust your instincts.
His greetings of “Hi beautiful” in the hallway and repeated requests for you to go out with him are giving you the creeps. You don’t like the attention, and you cringe each time you walk by him. Be forthright about your feelings. Tell the harasser that his advances are unwelcome -- and don’t tread lightly! If you have to state your discomfort a few times, then realize it’s time to file a grievance with Human Resources.
4. Keep it professional.
Draw a firm line for yourself when socializing with colleagues. Leave before any real partying gets underway to keep from becoming a predator’s unwitting target.
5. Look out for the quid pro quo.
When you finally find the courage to ask for a well-earned promotion, but your boss gives you a sadistic lure and says, “Let’s discuss it over dinner tonight,” it’s time to start thinking like a lawyer. You have a legitimate sexual harassment case if your supervisor implies that if you don’t acquiesce to his or her advances, it could have an adverse affect on your job status.
6. Ask for a transfer.
Have you spoken out against sexual harassment, but then been turned into a pariah among your co-workers for blowing the whistle? Sometimes it’s better to cut your ties and ask to transfer to another department than to allow the situation to fester. Even if the person making unwanted advancements has backed off, if everyone now gives you the cold shoulder, then you won’t be able to get your work done. Unfortunately, in some environments it is still the accuser, not the perpetrator, who falls prey to group attack. Show them you aren’t deterred, and find a better environment in which to focus your energy.
Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It applies to any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature that affects an individual’s employment or interferes with work performance. The law is intended to protect victims, and now, in this new climate of condemning sexual predators, there’s renewed hope that society will stand behind victims so they no longer have to fear unfair retaliation.
About the Author
Vicky Oliver is a leading career development expert and the multi-best-selling author of five books, including Bad Bosses, Crazy Coworkers & Other Office Idiots (Sourcebooks, 2008). She is a sought-after speaker and seminar presenter and a popular media source, having made over 700 appearances in broadcast, print and online outlets. For more information, visit vickyoliver.com.