A discussion of your Summer experience wouldn’t be complete without a mention of the workplace. We’ve all taken the unpaid internships, the part time barista jobs to support aforementioned unpaid internships, and worked those weird hours all summer long. What we have noticed is that one subject is rarely covered in depth during your painstakingly long orientation: sexual harassment. So, let’s talk.
Sexual harassment is defined as behavior characterized by the making of unwelcome and inappropriate sexual remarks or physical advances in a workplace or other professional, social situation. If you’re a little confused, don’t worry because so are we. Here’s some examples:
1. Sharing sexual or inappropriate images or videos.
2. Sending letters, texts, or emails with suggestive content.
3. Telling lewd jokes or sexual anecdotes.
If these examples remind you of more than just a few unsavory experiences, you’re not alone. Anywhere from 25% to 85% percent of women experience sexual harassment in the workplace. These numbers vary on sampling size and demographics, but the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission provides the higher estimate. Different types of work experience higher rates of harassment, such as working for tips or working in a male dominated field.
That’s not all there is to the story. A study conducted by the University of Michigan in 2003 found that 75% of employees who spoke out against workplace harassment experienced retaliation in some form. This makes it harder for those being victimized to speak out and is what allows the cycle of harassment to continue.
So, you’ve experienced workplace harassment in some shape or form. What’s next?
Step 1.) Document every instance of harassment
Every email, text message, or personal encounter should be saved in a folder or document only you have access to, which means keeping it off the company’s laptop and Google Drive. Be detailed by writing down dates and times. Even if you’re not ready to report or don’t currently have any intention to, this evidence could be supportive if anyone else comes forward or if you later on decide to file a complaint. We’re not asking you to do something you’re not ready for, but we are asking you to be meticulous in case someone else needs this evidence. There’s a good chance you’re not the only one who is experiencing or will experience sexual harassment from this specific person.
Step 2.) Monitor the situation
Basically, keep doing what you’re doing. You’re trying to build a case while still protecting your mental and emotional health. Take as many screenshots as you need to, even if you’re not entirely sure it counts as harassment. However, if it makes you feel uncomfortable, there’s a good chance that does count as harassment and we encourage you to write the instance down. If you start to feel unsafe or if you feel like you’re ready to say something, go ahead and proceed to step 3.
Step 3.) Report, report, report
You might be feeling a little uneasy now, but we promise taking this step is for the best. Policies for reporting sexual harassment depend on the company, but generally presenting a well worded email to HR with a copy of the harassment incidences is a safe, proper way to proceed. We suggest stating what it is you would like to happen in regards to the harassment. Would you feel safer if they were moved to another department or office? Would you rather have a formal apology? Would you rather this person just be looked into further? It’s important to report in the first place, but we also want you to feel safe. The HR department should take the necessary steps to ensure your continued comfort in your workplace.
If you are still experiencing problems from this person or do not feel that your company’s policies adequately address sexual harassment, there is legal action available, depending on the area you are in. We advise you to seek legal counsel if necessary.
Sexual harassment has negative consequences for the victims and for the workplace environment. 1 in 10 women who experienced harassment have symptoms that met the definition of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. In addition, sexual harassment is associated with decreased workplace productivity. Some women choose to leave their jobs due to the harassment, which has consequences for their long term career goals.
All in all, we want you to stay safe and comfortable at your workplace this Summer. If you’re experiencing something similar to what we’ve described, you’re not alone. If you’d like to share your story with us, send it in to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll post it anonymously.
Thanks for supporting us and have a great Summer!