Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

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Each year many people first become aware of sexual harassment when they are harassed in the workplace. Today in the United States there still seems to be a need for general information about sexual harassment. Many people are unaware of exactly what sexual harassment is, how it affects its victims, where it happens, and what to do if it happens to them. There are many laws that protect people from sexual harassment and provide them with information about what to do if you should ever be in this situation (Wyatt, 2000). Harassment of a sexual nature, typically in the workplace or other setting where raising objections or refusing may have negative consequences is considered sexual harassment. In American employment law, it is any unwelcome sexual advance on the job that creates intimidation in the workplace. Sexual harassment is considered a form of illegal discrimination. Unfortunately, the definition of sexual harassment is very controversial; it is truly based on what ones personal opinion is. Typical sexual harassment behavior usually includes unwanted touching of a co-worker, lewd comments, talk about gender superiority, or sexual jokes (Sandler, 1997). Sexual harassment is any sexual advance or conduct on the job that is unwanted. It can happen to men and women, gay or straight. Unsolicited sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other conduct of a sexual nature directed toward an individual are considered to be sexual harassment. Occasional comments like "Hey, baby" or "honey" will not likely be considered sexual harassment without more offensive or more frequent episodes. However, if the offensive behavior is extremely severe, such as a sexual assault, a single incident could be enough to be considered sexual harassment (The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 2005). Sexual harassment affects victims in many ways, often not noticeable to others. Victims feel powerless to stop the situation. They often fear retaliation, for example with grades or recommendations. They fear that their complaints will not be taken seriously, or that they will be perceived as causing trouble. Victims often blame themselves, and fear that others will also blame them, even though it is the harassing person's authority or influence that has been misused. Victims often have physical symptoms of stress, such as stomach problems or headaches. They can also become depressed, moody, or irritable without knowing why. Victims often suffer lower self-esteem, self-respect and self-confidence.

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