Although the majority of reported sexual harassment cases center around men harassing women, there have been signs that things are beginning to change. As more women have earned higher rungs on corporate ladders, the balance of power has started to shift a bit. Although this evolution is a step forward for the business world, there is a dark side; there have been increased reports of women harassing men in workplaces. A recent poll revealed that 10 percent of the men surveyed had been victims of sexual misconduct or sexual harassment at work. Besides that, one out five complaints filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) were from men.
Historically, workplace sexual harassment has been known to have been underreported, particularly among men. They seem to be even more embarrassed than women to report the abuse, because of the stereotype that men should not be concerned about it. Others fear that they will not be believed, or that they will face repercussions such as losing their job or being demoted. As the power differential continues to change, it is possible that more male victims will find their voices.
Examples of Sexual Harassment of Men
Interestingly, the number of total reported sexual harassment cases has gone down over the past few years as the number of sexual harassment filings by men has doubled during the past 15 years, according to the EEOC. Male-vs.-male sexual harassment has also increased. For example, nuclear energy and technology company BWX Technologies was sued by a male worker who had been with the company for 15 years. He was relocated to a remote part of the building and complained that a co-worker had been sexually harassing him every day. The worker filed the suit, adding that he was being discriminated against because the company allowed the harassment to continue, and permitted his co-workers to retaliate against him after he reported the incidents.
A few years back, Chipotle Mexican Grill was sued by the EEOC on behalf of a 22-year-old male shift manager. It was alleged that his female manager had been propositioning and groping him during every shift. A so-called sex scoreboard had also been posted, which included information about staff members’ sex lives. That same year, EEOC also sued a Gold Corral restaurant in Charlotte after a male assistant manager allegedly created a hostile work environment for a male dishwasher who had autism. According to the complaint, the assistant manager repeatedly requested oral sex and called the dishwasher a “retard.”
The Cheesecake Factory is also not immune to sexual harassment lawsuits filed by their workers. Six male employees asserted that they had been sexually assaulted repeatedly by a group of male kitchen workers some time back. This happened in one of the restaurant’s Arizona locations, and the EEOC claimed that the victims had been dragged into a walk-in refrigerator, where the sexual abuse took place. Although the company ended up denying the allegations, it settled for $345,000 for the six abused workers.
What, Exactly, is Workplace Sexual Harassment?
In short, sexual harassment is a type of illegal sex discrimination.According to the EEOC, workplace sexual harassment includes:
- Unwelcome sexual advances
- Requests for sexual favors
- Verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature
Any or all fall under the definition when they implicitly or explicitly affect the employee’s job responsibilities; interfere with their work performance; or create a hostile, offensive, or intimidating work environment. There are countless examples of workplace sexual harassment, and they can range from something that seems innocent such as unwelcome pats on the back to an all-out attack. Other examples include making insulting remarks about another employee’s appearance, pornographic texts and emails, inappropriate sexual comments, and demanding sex in return for job security.
The federal Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is one of the laws that protects employees from sex-based discrimination, and there are additional federal and state laws that also offer workers some protections. The laws are in place for people who work for public and private employers, labor organizations, and employment agencies. It is important to note that the harassment does not always come from another employee who is in a higher position. It can be anyone in the workplace: a colleague, vendor, a high-level executive, a man, or a woman. A 1998 Supreme Court ruling was made in a case that involved a Louisiana man who had been sexually harassed by a male manager when they were working on an oil rig. The court ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protected men from this kind of workplace harassment.
Are There Different Types of Sexual Harassment?
There are several legal categories for sexual harassment, and a common one is quid pro quo. The demanding of sex in return for job security scenario is an example, when a person with authority turns into the aggressor, using their power over a subordinate’s job. Aside from wanting sexual favors in exchange for allowing the subordinate to keep their job, the aggressor might threaten a poor performance review. Promising a promotion for sexual favors is another tactic.
A hostile work environment can also be created by an authority figure or a colleague who does not hold authority over another employee. This involves a single or ongoing situation that is offensive and/or pervasive. It could be repeated conduct that makes work unbearable, such as daily unwanted sexual comments and groping. Also, a hostile work environment could be defined as a very offensive, serious act that makes the workplace hostile and/or dangerous, such as an isolated, violent act that takes place.
Retaliation for employees who complain of workplace sexual harassment is another category that is used in these situations. This is when an employee speaks out about the discrimination and then faces adverse repercussions such as being disciplined, being transferred to a less desirable location or position, undeserved poor reviews, denied promotions or pay increases, demotions, and terminations. Besides that, these employees can also be subject to other forms of retaliation such as increased harassment and reductions in shifts.
What Should I Do if I am Being Sexually Harassed at Work?
If you are being sexually harassed at your place of employment, the first thing to do is to confront your harasser. They should be told that their behavior is unacceptable and that it needs to be stopped, because it is creating a hostile work environment and is a form of discrimination. Of course, this can be difficult, especially if the abuser holds authority or if they are intimidating. The other option is to report the harassment to a manager or your human resources department.
It is essential to keep records of the sexual harassment from the beginning, even if the abuse is not that obvious at first. Every unwelcome action should be noted, and this information should be kept somewhere safe, not at your office. Many companies have anti-harassment policies in place; some do not. Even when they do, they might not follow the policies or help to resolve the problem. This is when all that record-keeping comes into play, as the next step is to contact the EEOC and an experienced sexual harassment lawyer.
Delaware County Sexual Harassment Lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. Support Men Who Have Been Sexually Harassed at Work
Sexual harassment and discrimination are always wrong, and if you are facing this kind of abuse at your workplace, now is the time to do something about it. The experienced Delaware County sexual harassment lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. understand that both men and women experience this kind of problem, and we are ready to fight to protect your rights. Call us today at 215-569-1999 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Pennsauken, New Jersey, we serve clients in Wilkes-Barre, Scranton, northeast Philadelphia, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, Montgomery County, and Cherry Hill, South Jersey.