Your director is constantly making a pass at you, tugging at your bra while he stands behind you and dictates a letter, rubbing against you inappropriately, or looking at you suggestively… A coworker cracks crude jokes and asks about your sex life incessantly…Your manager won’t stop inviting himself over for the weekend, says he won’t recommend you for a promotion unless you sleep with him, invites you for a hangout with his friends while stating how s/he can match your salary if you’ll just sleep with him or her…
Sexual harassment in the workplace is deep-seated.
Is someone at work sexually harassing you? Is the unwanted attention making it difficult for you to perform, or even threatening your job? It’s bad enough sexual harassment isn’t unlawful in Nigeria; however, what can a victim of sexual harassment do? Women (and men) are justifiably afraid to report sexual harassment. Still, just like all forms of sexual assault, sexual harassment is not about sex. It’s about power. If you don’t speak up or do something about a sexual harasser, he or she will keep doing it and accelerate their behavior.
Here are steps to help you protect yourself if you have been or are being sexually harassed at work.
- Speak up clearly. Let your objections be known immediately and calmly. Don’t make a joke or lose your temper. Use a neutral tone of voice and try to diffuse the situation.
- Document any quid pro quo. One type of sexual harassment, called “quid pro quo sexual harassment,” is where you’re offered a job, promotion or favors if you submit to the harasser — or are threatened that you’ll be demoted, fired or disciplined if you don’t. So if any offers or threats are being made, write down the date, time, place and any witnesses. Don’t worry if there are no witnesses. Harassers are usually too smart to do it in front of others.
- Document any comments and different treatment you’ve received. The other type of sexual harassment, called “hostile environment,” is way more common than quid pro quo. Hostile environment is where you’re being harassed due to your gender. This could be comments about your gender being inferior, sexual comments or treating people of your gender differently than the opposite sex. If the harasser is making comments or treating you differently, he or she may also be targeting others of your sex. Watch carefully and take good notes of comments directed to you and to others. Again, include date, time, place and any witnesses. If it’s just you, then still document it.
- Keep your notes in a safe place.Don’t put them on your work computer, in a desk drawer or somewhere where your employer can take them. Instead, keep them in a purse or briefcase or write them on your home computer. If you’re fired, you’ll be prevented from taking your notes from your work computer and they may be conveniently “lost.”
- Gather your evidence.If the harasser is texting, emailing or sending cards or notes, keep copies. Don’t delete them. Make sure you take a screen shot of any texts or Snapchats and print them so you don’t lose them if your device crashes or you buy a new one. Print out emails, too, and keep them in a safe place.
- Consult helpful resources, both within and outside of the company. If you have a friend outside the company—maybe a human resources professional—s/he could provide valuable advice on how to proceed. At the office, have any of your colleagues experienced similar treatment? If a case has already been opened, you could throw your support behind it. Consult your company’s guidelines on how to report harassment.
- Report the harassment at work.You have to give the employer a chance to correct the situation. Make sure you’ve followed the company sexual harassment policy, if there is one, and reported your concern to the correct person. Some companies have a detailed policy for handling sexual harassment claims. If your company has such a policy, you should follow it to the letter, taking note of any time limits set out in that policy.The employer should have alternate people to report to in case one is your harasser. I suggest reporting it in writing. If you’ve only reported it verbally, follow up in writing. Remember, the employer doesn’t have to fire the harasser or tell you what action was taken. They only have to make it stop. If he or she does it again or retaliates, report it.
- Consider leaving the job. If your company won’t do anything and you don’t feel safe there, start looking for a position elsewhere. Don’t let the harasser bully you out of a job before you’re ready, but don’t feel trapped either. Sometimes a sexual harasser will work on your head and make you feel like nobody else would want you. Don’t believe it. You’ll be amazed how relieved you’ll be to get out of a bad situation.
One last thing: If you don’t report sexual harassment, there will be other victims and the behavior will get worse. Stand up for your right to a safe workplace. Your employer has a duty to keep your workplace free of sexual harassment.
- Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2016/07/13/what-to-do-if-youre-being-sexually-harassed-at-work/#42574d9c340f
- The balance. https://www.forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2016/07/13/what-to-do-if-youre-being-sexually-harassed-at-work/#42574d9c340f