Sexual Harassment at Work
Sexual harassment can include: someone making degrading, abusive remarks or gestures; being leered or stared at; being subjected to sexual jokes and sexual propositions; having to listen to comments about personal sexual activity or sexual preference; and, experiencing unwanted touching and bodily contact.
Although sexual harassment happens everywhere, it is very common at work, which can make it especially distressing and difficult to deal with.
It causes stress and hostility in the workplace, and over time, it can lead to physical and emotional problems such as headaches; nausea; cystitis; depression; anxiety; sleeping problems; nightmares; eating problems; loss of self-confidence, self-esteem and/or self- worth.
If this is happening to you, it is not your fault and you are being unreasonable in not liking it. The harasser is to blame and is abusing their position of trust and power. You may not be the only person they are harassing.
It is important that you speak to someone who will take your feelings seriously.
Rather than putting up with the situation or reporting the harassment, many women leave their job and look for work elsewhere. However, with some support and information, there are things you can do:
Tell the harasser to stop. Let them know you dislike their behaviour. You could ask another work colleague to do this on your behalf. You can let them know in writing that their behaviour is unreasonable (keep a copy of the letter if you do this).
If you want to confront the harasser take someone with you such as a union representative (if you have one), or a senior member of staff.
Confide in someone at work you can trust. You may find out someone else is, or has been, harassed by the same person.
Keep a note of dates and times of each incident, and details of what happened and what was said.
Report the harassment to someone in authority - this can be important, even if no action is taken against the harasser, in case you ever want to take legal action for injury to feelings.
If there is no one at work you can approach, you can contact Citizens Advice, Equal and Humans Rights Commissions, a law centre/lawyer or Rape Crisis Centre/ FRASAC.
If the harasser touches you on an intimate part of your body you can report them to the police for indecent assault.
Most organisations and companies have proper procedures for dealing with sexual harassment and complaints. If your employer reacts badly and you are sacked, this could be “unfair dismissal’’. If you have to leave because nothing is done about the harassment, this could be “constructive dismissal”. In both situations, you can take the case to an industrial tribunal.
No one should have to put up with unwanted advances towards them at work. You can get help to deal with it.