I am writing today to address an issue of importance – Sexual Harassment. Now while many of you think that you know everything you need to know on this topic, it never hurts to have a little refresher crash course!
Sexual harassment is defined as an unwelcome sexual advance, a request for a sexual favor, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. Sexually harassing situations are generally split into 2 categories:
- Quid Pro Quo – the harasser is offering the victim something in return for sexual favors (more rarely seen these days).
- Hostile Work Environment – typically involves sexually charged, offensive conduct that permeates the workplace, making it difficult or unpleasant for an employee to do her/his job.
Sexual harassment is real and has a real impact in the workplace. Research shows that people subjected to harassment leave jobs or school to avoid the harassment and those that remain can experience a decrease in job satisfaction, lower evaluations, absenteeism, and a decrease in job performance.
The most important thing you need to know about harassment is that gender doesn’t matter – men can harass women or men and women can harass men or women! Also, don’t assume that “friendly” or “funny” actions and gestures are acceptable to everyone you come in contact with in the workplace. Whether intended or unintended, you may be appropriately accused of sexual harassment if you indulge in such actions as:
- telling sexual jokes or making innuendoes of a sexual nature;
- making sexual comments about a person’s clothing or body (including your own);
- hugging, touching, or patting; or
- using lewd or offensive gestures.
If you are a victim of sexual harassment, or if you are accused of sexual harassment, you may contact your Union representatives for assistance, either on campus or contact the Downtown Office at (312) 755-9400.