The Damaging Consequences of Sexual Harassment
By John D. Winer
A workplace characterized by unwanted sexual comments and behavior interpreted as sexual harassment can make employees very uncomfortable and lead to disastrous ramifications. The barrage of recent news stories detailing examples of sexual harassment occurring in a wide range of industries underscores how sex discrimination has become a pervasive problem in our culture.
Many people experience damaging effects that can range from health problems, financial issues, emotional and physical consequences. Sexual harassment in the workplace isn’t an industry issue, nor is it a toxic workplace issue; it’s an issue that affects everyone everywhere. A number of industries have been implicated in the wake of producer Harvey Weinstein’s alleged sexual misconduct, including the entertainment industry and in politics. Before that, sexual harassment in the workplace made headlines as an issue that happens, but isn’t really dealt with in a serious matter. Now that light has been shed on harassment, it’s time to think about the victims and what happens to them when they experience this terrible issue first-hand.
Abusive behavior and harassment can lead to serious mental and health issues if left untreated. These issues can happen in any industry, not just in entertainment. The consequences of abuse include high stress levels, depression, anxiety, and in extreme cases, PTSD. Physical symptoms can range from weight loss or weight gain, hair loss, headaches, and high blood pressure. People can experience these symptoms for years, and they can worsen.
Toxic workplace cultures are partially to blame and companies with these values are far more susceptible to sexual harassment. There are many reasons why victims stay silent and decide to not tell anyone about the problem. For one, it could be humiliating for someone to report abuse against them. The victim may not want to remember the scenario and instead will try to move past it. Other times, the victim is looked down upon and could be harassed by coworkers or other personnel and fears retaliation. It’s not surprising that the majority of people having experienced some form of sexual harassment at work will not report it and continue working at the place where it occurred.
Over the past few weeks, the hashtag #MeToo has been trending on Twitter and other social media platforms. The message behind it and the response it has received has been shocking. It started when actress Alyssa Milano tweeted, “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet… Me too.” The goal was to spread the word about personal trauma that could be left untold. With the help of social media, the #Metoo tweets became a movement. It became viral, with thousands of people tweeting, “#MeToo” to show solidarity with the victims. This demonstrated how widespread the issue of sexual harassment has become in the U.S. workforce.
A victim of sexual harassment may want to speak out against their abuser, but it’s important for others to speak up, too, even ahead of the victim. You may know someone who was affected and they might be too afraid to speak up, and you might just be the person to help them. It’s not only damaging for the victim to leave a severe issue unreported, but it’s also damaging to those who know that unsolicited sexual behavior is happening around them, and not do anything about it. This can lead to other people being harassed or assaulted, and the perpetrator never being punished. If you know something, say something, but not just to anyone. Find the right person or office to report this behavior, and if you do not get a response or the issue is dismissed as unimportant, report it to the authorities as soon as possible.
Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. If you feel that you are the victim of unwanted sexual advances and inappropriate verbal or physical conduct in the workplace, you have the right to file a discrimination complaint with the EEOC, which is a federal agency tasked with enforcing many anti-discrimination laws. But timing is important; you must file your complaint within six months from the date of any discriminatory incident. Victims don’t have to suffer in silence; sexual misconduct should never be tolerated.
If you are experiencing sexual harassment at work, don’t hesitate to contact a sexual harassment attorney in California. Even if you’re not sure you are looking at a lawsuit, attorneys are here to help answer any doubts or concerns.