Is Sexual Harassment Illegal?
Yes, sexual harassment violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and creates a
hostile work environment, especially for the victim of the harassment. Title VII was put in place to create equality in the work place by preventing employers from allowing sexual harassment regardless of a person's gender, sex, or sexual orientation.
Sexual harassment in the workplace is an abuse of power and needs to be treated as such. Sexual harassment of any type is meant to be demeaning, to put down the victim and for the harasser to feel as if they have power over the victim.
I have personally been placed in a hostile work environment, but at the time I didn't realize that what I was putting up with was sexual harassment because it wasn't physical touching and because my harasser was female. She would stare at me when I bent over, compliment me on my butt by saying tings like "I wish my ass would look as good as yours" or "my daughter is a personal trainer and her thighs will never be as toned as yours" and other various things. I found this to be annoying so I asked her to stop, but it didn't. It evolved to random butt slaps and compliments on my 'perfect' chest. Again, I asked her stop and not touch me.
I didn't report this to my supervisor because I was ignorant in knowing that a female could sexually harass another female. She was not my boss, but she acted as if she controlled the work area. Her harassment began after I stood my ground, told her she wasn't in charge, and working in the group homes was a joint effort. I believe she tried to keep me 'in place' by harassing me. For a while, it worked. I avoided her and let her do her own thing. Did what she asked me to, whether it was my responsibility or not.
The more progressive she became with her harassment, the more I complied, and the lazier she got. She held this power over me, that I didn't even see, so she could boss me around as she sat in the recliner and caught up on her television shows because the group home had cable and she did not. This went on for about a year or so, before I had actually hit my breaking point with the inappropriate comments and the touching. It was that day, when I was crouched in the kitchen looking for a specific pot, that she used both hands to grope me and asked if I was making dinner.
Truth is, I was going to make dinner anyways so I could avoid being in the same room with her. I had just learned that she didn't act this way with any other employee because they either didn't put up with her comments or they did everything to avoid listening to her complain.
I stood up, yelled at her for touching me again, told her no, and then took "her spot" in the recliner. I am the first to admit that I didn't handle this situation appropriately and had let it go on for too long. It had become so hostile for me, that I would sit in my car pretending to be on the phone, just to avoid an extra couple minutes with her.
I should have reported her comments to my supervisor long before the touching began. However, I was a victim of sexual harassment and what happened was not my fault. If the same thing is happening to you, it doesn't matter how you identify, how your body looks, or how you dress. Sexual harassment is sexual harassment. It didn't matter if I wore leggings or baggy sweat pants, she found a way to 'compliment' me.
If you find yourself in a similar situation, or if you are confused about the situation you are in, contact our firm. We specialize in employment matters, including sexual harassment in the work place. We can be called at (412) 626-5626, emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org, or use our live chat function on our website at www.manesnarahari.com.
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