Sexual harassment in the workplace is any unwanted activity of a sexual nature that creates an unfriendly or hostile work environment. Sexual harassment can be physical, verbal, or more nuanced such as through email interactions. Sexual harassment can happen to women, men and transgendered workers.
Although most people think of sexual harassment in various forms of cliché – such as a cigar-smoking boss physically grabbing female employees in inappropriate ways – this is by no means the only way that sexual harassment can occur within the workplace. Sexual harassment includes any type of sexual advances, requests for sexual favors in exchange for rewards or threats of disciplinary action if sexual favors are not given.
Another stereotypical view of sexual harassment is that it only occurs in certain types of office environments, and that it was a much bigger problem back in the 70s, 80s and 90s when the increased presence of women in the workforce was still a new topic to those unwilling to adapt to changing times.
Unfortunately, recent studies have shown that sexual harassment has not vanished with the modernization of society, as a 2015 study showed that 33 percent of 2,235 part and fulltime women workers experienced harassment at work at some point in their lives.
Other recent studies show that sexual harassment is actually an even bigger problem in modern, booming industries, such as the technological hub of Silicon Valley.
A study of more than 200 women working in Silicon Valley and the San Francisco in 2016 showed that 90 percent had witnessed sexist behavior at offsite company events and industry conferences. Another 60 percent had reported being the target of unwanted sexual advances from a superior. An uneasy 33 percent said they felt afraid for their personal safety because of these incidents at work.
These cases of sexual harassment include physical groping and the requesting of a female sales associate to “sit on his lap” in order to complete a sale. One who filed a complaint after she was physically groped by her boss said that she was retaliated against and had to leave the company.
Even more alarming are the staggering statistics regarding gender discrimination by superiors and clients at these companies. About half of the survey respondents said they had been asked to perform “office housework” tasks, such as taking notes, ordering food, etc.) that male counterparts were not asked to do. Another 87 percent reported being on the receiving end of demeaning comments from male colleagues.
A shocking 75 percent of respondents say they were asked questions about marriage and family in their job interviews, which is a violation of anti-discrimination policy. Sometimes the discriminatory action is less overt, such as superiors taking the staff out to lunch at Hooters, or engaging in “team building activities” that include shaving the hair from their heads.
Sexual harassment in any form is repugnant, and illegal
As humans, we like to believe that problems we experienced in the past are no longer an issue due to advancing times and the adaptation of our culture. However, one could be hard-pressed to find better evidence to disprove this fallacy than the disgusting contradiction of our tech industry – where the technology has never been more advanced, but the behavior of the male-dominant workforce is stuck squarely in the 1950s.
At Altman & Altman LLP, we simply won’t stand for sexual harassment or gender discrimination in the workplace. If you or somebody you know is being harassed or discriminated against in a sexual manner, or because of their gender, then we can help bring the party responsible to justice. Our legal team has over 40 years of experience fighting on behalf of our clients.
Call us for a free consultation today at 617-492-3000 or toll-free at 800-481-6199. We are available 24/7.