5 Myths About Workplace Sexual Harassment

There are many myths and common misconceptions surrounding workplace sexual harassment. These myths can be harmful and damaging for people who experience harassment and discrimination at work. The more you understand about workplace sexual harassment, the more you will be able to protect your rights as an employee in Los Angeles, California.

Sexual Harassment Is About a Desire for Sex

Although many forms of sexual harassment are sexual in nature, such as kissing, groping or sexual touching, sexual harassment is not only about a desire for sexual relations. Instead, it comes from a desire to control another person. This is why, statistically, sexual harassment is most commonly committed by workers in positions of trust and power against lower-ranking employees, such as a manager or CEO against a worker.

Sexual Harassment Must Involve Touching

Sexual harassment does not only involve touching. In fact, many examples of sexual harassment are completely nonphysical, where the perpetrator never touches the victim. The definition of sexual harassment under the Equality Act is very wide. It encompasses many types of nonphysical inappropriate actions and behaviors, including:

  • Lewd remarks or comments
  • Sexual facial expressions or gestures
  • Inappropriate jokes or innuendos
  • Comments about a coworker’s appearance
  • Name-calling
  • Sexual images or videos
  • Sexual text messages or emails

Sexual harassment does not even have to involve actions of a sexual nature. The definition of sexual harassment also covers harassment and discrimination based on a victim’s sex, gender, relationship status or gender identity. If you are not sure if an incident at work constitutes sexual harassment, consult with an attorney who can help.

Men Don’t Get Sexually Harassed

It is a myth that women are the only victims of sexual harassment. While it is true that women get sexually harassed more often than men, men also face sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace. Research shows that in the U.S., 14 percent of men report they have experienced workplace sexual harassment, compared to 27 percent of women. Sexual harassment against male workers can come from male or female coworkers, bosses or clients.

It Is Not Harassment If it Was a Joke or Compliment

Many people do not fully understand the definition of sexual harassment. They mistakenly believe that things said as a joke, offhand remark or compliment do not qualify as harassment. According to California’s definition of sexual harassment, however, this is not the case.

Sexual harassment refers to any verbal expressions of a sexual nature or based on a victim’s sex that create a hostile or offensive work environment. This can include remarks thought only to be jokes or banter, as well as remarks about an employee’s appearance that are meant to be complimentary. Although an innocent remark between two coworkers who know each other may not constitute sexual harassment, the situation will require an investigation to decide.

Ignoring Sexual Harassment Makes it Go Away

Being proactive about ending sexual harassment in your workplace is the only thing that will make it go away. Ignoring sexual harassment or pretending it is not happening will not solve the problem – and can even make things worse by establishing a precedence of tolerating harassment in your workplace. Instead of ignoring the problem, take action by reporting it to your employer.

Go to your employer or the human resources department right away and describe in detail what happened. Give the name of the harasser as well as any eyewitnesses who saw the incident take place. Do not be afraid of your employer retaliating against you, as this is against the law. If your employer fails to do anything about sexual harassment at work, file a formal complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The EEOC can investigate your claim and visit your workplace. If the EEOC agrees that there is evidence of sexual harassment in your workplace, it can schedule mediation between you and your employer to resolve the issue. If this does not work, you will have grounds to file a sexual harassment lawsuit against your employer. In this scenario, consult with a sexual harassment attorney in Los Angeles for legal advice and representation.