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Why speaking up is the only way to stop sexual harassment at work

If questioned, most male and female workers would likely agree that sexual harassment in the workplace should not be tolerated. However, these same workers likely have very different ideas and opinions about what types of comments and behaviors actually constitute as sexual harassment.

Any employee, regardless of gender and sexual orientation, can be the victim of sexual harassment. While some acts and incidences of sexual harassment are blatant and obvious, often much depends on context and "the situation and people involved." Possible acts of sexual harassment include comments, unwelcome advances, touching or brushing against, graphic materials, threats or bribes and acts of sexual assault.

In a workplace setting, these and other acts of sexual harassment are prohibited under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Therefore, workers who have experienced sexual harassment at work are encouraged to come forward and report such violations to their supervisor or company's human resources department. Sadly, many workers who are on the receiving end of sexually-charged comments and actions are too ashamed, embarrassed or afraid of the potential consequences to come forward and therefore, remain silent.

A 2015 Cosmopolitan Magazine poll of working women ages 18 to 34 revealed that one in three reported experiencing sexual harassment at work. However, only 29 percent of these women took action and filed a formal complaint. Unfortunately, unless and until individuals come forward and report these harassing, abusive and illegal acts; nothing will change.

New York City workers who have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace are advised to speak with an attorney. Depending on the situation and circumstances, an attorney may advise taking legal action.

Source: American Association of University Women, "Know Your Rights: Workplace Sexual Harassment," Oct. 7, 2015

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