It Is illegal to sexually harass someone in the workplace. This is very simple. Someone who is in a position of power cannot use that position to treat their employees unfairly. Co-workers also are not allowed to harass someone simply based on their gender or anything related to their sex.
Despite all of this already being legally banned, it definitely still happens. In some cases, people report discriminatory comments or jokes. Others report unwanted touching or sexual physical contact. Still others report that they were asked to provide sexual favors in exchange for things like a raise or a promotion.
When you hear about these stories, you instinctively know that they’re wrong. This is not something that should happen to any employee. But it still does, despite being illegal and morally wrong, so why does it happen?
It’s about power, not sex
One thing to keep in mind is that sexual harassment and discrimination is often about power. This is why it’s most common for men to be the perpetrators and women to be the victims. It’s not that it can’t happen the other way around, and it certainly does, but men traditionally tend to hold more positions of power in the modern American workplace. This is still true today, despite gains being made toward equality between the genders, and this power imbalance often leads to harassment.
You can’t legislate someone’s attitude
Another problem that exists is simply that making something illegal doesn’t mean that people won’t still be drawn to do it. You can’t legislate how they feel about taking that action. A CEO who wants to demonstrate his power over the female employees by harassing them in the workplace will know that it’s illegal. But they’ll still want to do it. Instead of refraining because it’s illegal, they’ll try to look for ways to cover it up or to gaslight the employees so they don’t even believe that what happened was a problem. In other words, no matter how many laws are made, this is still going to be a problem because there are those who are going to be willing to break those laws.
What can you do?
Thankfully, you do have the law on your side. If you’ve been discriminated against or sexually harassed at work, you absolutely need to know about all of the legal options you have. You’re not alone in this and you deserve far better treatment on the job.