How do I Prove Gender Harassment in the Workplace?
The best way to prove gender harassment in the workplace is to keep records about harassment incidents or to solicit witnesses who may have seen inappropriate behavior. It is also very helpful to set up clear documentation; a person who experiences harassment should report it to a supervisor and request a written report, so this information will be available if the issue comes up in the future. People may also find it helpful to alert other coworkers to the issue and ask them for help.
Gender harassment can include a variety of activities, all of which involve making a person feel uncomfortable because of that person's sex or gender. Some examples could include inappropriately touching women in the workplace, making offensive comments to transgender employees about their bodies, or pressuring a coworker or subordinate to engage in sexual activity. The two most common types of workplace gender harassment are quid pro quo harassment and hostile working environment harassment.
In quid pro quo cases, someone suggests that another person will receive special treatment or benefits in exchange for allowing intimate contact. For example, a supervisor might promise a promotion to an employee who agrees to go on a date. Hostile working environment harassment involves situations where a person is made to feel uncomfortable at work with offensive language, verbal taunting, or unwanted physical contact.
Sometimes, gender harassment in the workplace comes in the form of things like phone calls, emails, text messages, or notes. These are easy to use as proof because the victim can hang on to them. Before turning them over to a supervisor, it is a good idea to make copies. If a harasser does not leave a convenient paper trail, an employee could create one. A transgender employee receiving inappropriate comments about her genitals could, for example, send an email to the offender, copied to a supervisor, saying that she feels uncomfortable with the comments and wants them to stop. This creates clear documentation of an incident and alerts a supervisor to the problem.
People experiencing gender harassment in the workplace can also look for witnesses to provide proof. If someone is engaging in harassing behavior, the victim can make sure that other people are around during interpersonal interactions, so another person will be present if the perpetrator does something inappropriate. When witnesses are present during an incident, the victim can ask them to write down what they saw, and can use this as evidence when preparing to file a complaint or take a gender harassment in the workplace matter to court.
Here's an interesting fact: of the 15,000 or so sexual harassment cases brought before the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission each year in the United States, slightly more than 10 percent are cases in which males employees are filing against female supervisors.
@Drentel - You say that everyone at your business feels comfortable with the borderline harassment that takes place, but how can you know this for certain? Maybe someone is being hurt, but he or she is afraid to say anything because of fear of losing a job, or fear of alienating coworkers.
It is the responsibility of management to follow and enforce the rules that have been put in place to combat workplace harassment, so that workers can feel comfortable in the knowledge that they are in a safe environment.
Trying to determine what constitutes sexual harassment or gender harassment is not easy. I know there are rules that are supposed to dictate what we can and cannot do and say in the workplace, but harassment isn't harassment until someone perceives it to be harmful or out of place.
I have men and women employees and I know some of the comments they (both the men and the women) make would legally fall under the classification of sexual or verbal harassment. However, that's just the environment we have created. We give one another a hard time, but for the most it is all in fun.
If I thought someone was taking offense to the comments, I would step in, or if someone came to me and complained then I would make changes, but I don't want to spoil the atmosphere as long as it is working for everyone.
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