Sexual Harassment By Supervisor or Co-Worker – What is the Difference?

sexual harassmentThe workplace should be a safe place for workers and it should be kept that way. Whether the danger comes from job hazards or danger of harassment or discrimination from co-workers and upper management, the company must always address these dangers. For female employees, one of their major concerns is the issue of sexual harassment in the office.

Sure, some male employees have also experienced sexual harassment from their co-workers or employers but statistics show that sexual harassment of male towards female employees is more common in the workplace. Though this issue is something that we do not frequently see on the news, sexual harassment is a real problem in many companies. Women and some men face the dangers of sexual harassment not just from their superiors but also from their co-workers.

Sexual harassment in the workplace can come in many forms. It can be verbal insults and suggestive comments that are considered sexual in nature, it could be inappropriate and unwanted touching, and it can also come as a sexual favor in exchange for advancement in employment. As for the verbal insults and comments, they must be said so often and in such an offensive manner that it results to a disruptive and hostile environment in the workplace.

Obviously, sexual harassment can come from your workmates, supervisor and/or manager. But the question is – what difference does the distinction make?

The truth is, it makes all the difference. Experiencing sexual harassment from a co-worker does not allow you to sue the company you for immediately. What you can do is either sue your harasser in the court or file a complaint to your company in the HR office or as per your company’s policy. Once you have filed a complaint yet the company has not done any actions to deter the hostile and unsafe work environment, then you can sue the company.

On the other hand, if your harasser is your supervisor or manager, you may not need to file a complaint. You can immediately sue the company. The reason behind this is that when your harasser is a supervisor or manager, there is an automatic liability by a company because their position gives them the ability to control the employee by firing them or coercing them to withdraw the complaint.

If you have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, the best thing that you can do initially is to take notes of the experience and incidents where you felt you were sexually harassed. If the incidents have become more frequent and aggressive, you must immediately report it to your company. Do not just make a verbal complaint; make it in writing, too. Include your notes and if you have evidences like emails or letters the better. Do not turn them over, instead make a copy.

If the incidents don’t stop file a complaint in the EEOC or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. This way, they won’t be able to fire you for filing a complaint. Also, get a consultation with a good employment lawyer. The EEOC can file a case against the company you work for on your behalf or you can directly sue the company through your own private lawyer.


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