Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other federal and state laws, both male and female workers are protected from sex-based discrimination and harassment. When most people think of workplace harassment, they often think of harassment directed towards women. However, men can also become victims of sexual harassment in the workplace. While such harassment has always taken place, it’s happening with more frequency as women earn higher rungs on corporate ladders, and there has been a shift in the balance of power in some workplaces.
What Is Workplace Sexual Harassment?
All male and female employees should know how to identify workplace sexual harassment and what they can do about it. Sexual harassment in the workplace is a type of illegal sex discrimination.
The EEOC defines workplace sexual harassment as including:
- Requests for sexual favors
- Physical or verbal conduct of a sexual nature
- Unwelcome sexual advances
Sexual harassment may implicitly or explicitly impact the employee’s job responsibilities; interfere with work performance, or create a hostile, intimidating, or offensive work environment. Countless examples of workplace sexual harassment exist, ranging from something that seems innocent, such as unwelcome pats on the back, to a verbal or physical attack. Other examples of workplace sexual harassment include:
- Inappropriate sexual comments
- Insulting remarks about another employee’s appearance
- Graphic texts and emails
- Demanding sexual favors in return for job security or promising a promotion or raise
Remember that harassment doesn’t always come from another employee in a higher position. It can come from anyone in the workplace, no matter their title or position or the victim’s position or gender: a colleague, a vendor, a high-level executive, a man, or a woman.
How Common Is Sexual Harassment of Men in the Workplace?
Men certainly face workplace sexual harassment across the country today. Studies show that as many as ten percent of men have been victims of workplace sexual harassment or misconduct. In fact, one out of every five complaints made to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) were made by men.
Workplace Sexual Harassment Underreporting Common Among Men
Workplace sexual harassment is wholly underreported, especially when the victims are males. Unfortunately, men seem to be more embarrassed and self-conscious about the harassment than women. They may fear that no one will believe them or that they might lose their job, face a demotion, or have other repercussions from reporting sexual harassment.
What Should You Do If You Are Facing Workplace Sexual Harassment?
If you face sexual harassment at your workplace, first confront your harasser. Tell them that their behavior is unacceptable and needs to stop immediately because it’s creating a hostile work environment and is a type of workplace discrimination. Of course, doing so is much easier said than done, especially if the harasser has authority over you or if they are intimidating. If you can’t tell them to stop or you have, and they won’t stop, the next option is to report the harassment to your or their manager or your human resources department.
You should also keep records of sexual harassment occurrences from the beginning. Every unwelcome or hostile word or action should be recorded in a log, and your log should be kept somewhere safe. Your next step should be to contact the EEOC and an experienced sexual harassment attorney for help.