If you’ve ever watched an episode of the hit TV show The Office, starring Steve Carell and heard the, “That’s what she said,” joke, you might be surprised that it is a perfect example of sexual harassment. Now it might be funny to some, but to others this can make them feel uncomfortable or even taken as an offense. Now, what is sexual harassment? In 1964 the civil acts right was passed with the purpose to end segregation and discrimination based on color, race, religion, and sex in public places and public employment. This was act aimed at attacking a number of ethical issues in the country. Sexual harassment in the workplace is a form of discrimination and directly violates the civil rights act of 1964. What is considered sexual harassment? Sexual harassment can be any form of unwanted verbal, nonverbal, physical conduct of a sexual nature with the purpose of violating the dignity of a person. In other words, creating a hostile, intimidating, humiliating, or offensive environment to an individual or a group. A stigma that is often thought of is that only women are victims of sexual harassment. However, anyone can be a victim, including men, although it is less common.
There are many different forms of sexual harassment that go beyond physical contact between two individuals. Verbal sexual harassment is a common form that many disregard. It occurs when unwanted verbal comments are made directly or indirectly towards someone. These can be comments made to someone directly in a conversation or a comment made that someone finds offensive. Sexual touching is also a very common form of sexual harassment. This can include unwelcomed sexual touching, groping, hugging, kissing or unwanted physical contact. Now more than ever, we also see examples of sexual harassment electronically between individuals on social media, e-mail, private messaging, etc., this is known as Cyber sexual harassment. This is when inappropriate unwanted sexual comments are made through cyber communication. Just because a comment is not spoken out in the open or publicly, does not mean it cannot be a form of harassment. Lastly, there is sexual assault which is unwanted sexual physical activity that is without consent such as drugging, by force, or threat.
Sexual harassment in the workplace can happen anywhere. There have been heavily publicized cases of sexual harassment in the workplace that has been covered in the media. For example, former President Bill Clinton was accused of sexually assaulting a number of women including Paula Jones. Jones, a former Arkansas state employee stated that in 1991, at a government quality-management conference, in which Clinton was in attendance, Jones was approached by state police officers and told that Clinton, the Governor of Arkansas, wanted to meet with her. Jones said that the police officer escorted her to Clinton’s hotel room in Little Rock, Arkansas and that upon arrival, Clinton exposed his genitals to her proposing they have sex. She states, “He sat down, pulled down his pants, his whole everything and he was exposed, and I said, ‘I’m not that kind of girl, and I need to be getting back to my desk,'”. After denying his advances, He then attempted to keep the matter between the two in order to prevent any negative backlash by stating, “You’re a smart girl в let’s keep this between ourselves.”. However, Jones made the allegation public in 1994 when she took Bill Clinton to court where the case was dismissed by a judge, but Bill Clinton ultimately ended up paying $850,000 as an out-of-court settlement fee.
Another more recent example of sexual harassment cases that have been publicized have been the allegations made towards our current President Donald Trump. Now, Donald Trump has been in the media numerous times regarding certain statements that he has made towards women that can be considered sexual harassment. A more notable case of sexual harassment involving President Donald Trump has been the accusation made by Rachel Crooks. Crooks has made accusations stating that Donald Trump had forcefully kissed her on the lips and on the cheek when she worked as a receptionist in the Trump Tower. Crooks stated that he began kissing her on the cheeks in which she later quotes that he, “kissed me directly on the mouth.” She added to her statement saying, “It didn’t feel like an accident. It felt like a violation.” Of course, Donald Trump has denied the allegations made to him regarding to them as, “fake news.” As of today, Trump has not been charged against any of these allegations, but goes to show that even some of the most powerful people on the globe can be involved with sexual harassment.
Lastly, and probably the most recognizable case of sexual harassment in the last couple of years, are the allegation made against Hollywood’s own, Harvey Weinstein. As of recent, numerous allegations against Weinstein have been made in regards to sexually assaulting a number of women in Hollywood. Women including A-list celebrities such as Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, Gwyneth Paltrow, and dozens of more women. These women have accused Weinstein of verbal, sexual threats, touching, groping, and even physically forcing himself onto women. Weinstein is currently on trial for the sexual assault allegations made against him by multiple women, but has not yet been charged. This case was significant because it served as the catalyst to bring attention about sexual assault and harassment in all work places across the media. The, “Me Too,” helped break the silence of hundreds of people around the world that have experience sexual assault and harassment, helping others speak out.
The effects of sexual harassment in the workplace can be destructive. It can create an uncomfortable and hostile work environment for individuals leading to lowered performance, depression, and physical self-harm. Men and women who work in these situations do not deserve to feel this way in their work environments. Every employer wants to see their staff be successful and happy, but sexual harassment is a serious issue that can be harmful.
Solutions to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace begin with talking about sexual harassment. Yes, it can be an uncomfortable topic to discuss with your peers, but it is even more uncomfortable for the person who is experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace. It begins with stern polices that forbid any behavior that resemble sexual harassment. It involves discussing the polices that protect employees from sexual harassment and discussing the consequences for those who are found guilty of sexual harassment. Most importantly, it is about having a strong humans resource department that are there to investigate and resolve these issues to end sexual harassment.