The numerous recent news reports and the #metoo campaign have shed light on the prevalent problem of sexual harassment in society and in California. Workplaces are not immune, and many workers are the targets of sexual harassment in the workplace. Sexual harassment is illegal in the workplace as a forbidden form of sex discrimination, and it is imperative that employers take steps to prevent it from happening.
Statistics indicate that about 71 percent of women decide against reporting workplace sexual harassment due to the fear of being retaliated against. However, there are certain steps that individuals can take to help prevent future incidences of sexual harassment and support their colleagues.
California workers should know that the United States Department of Labor recognizes two types of sexual harassment. A hostile work environment is the result of sexual harassment that makes the work area offensive or threatening. Quid pro quo refers to using whether a victim succumbs to sexual harassment as a basis for making employment decisions, such as promotions or work assignments.
Someone receiving care from a California physical therapist might not realize how often that professional might endure unwanted sexual advances from patients. A study that surveyed 892 physical therapists reported that 84 percent of them experienced everything from lewd remarks to sexual assault. A portion of victims expressed to researchers the indifference of their employers toward the harassment. Management in some cases considered the harassment to be part of the job and did nothing to protect employees.
The technology giant Google became mired in a controversy in August after one of its engineers claimed that women were unsuited to work in the technology sector because of their biological characteristics. Google subsequently fired him, but the ensuing media storm has prompted several other women formerly employed by Google to step forward with accounts of sexual and racial discrimination and harassment at the company's California headquarters.
According to a 2016 report from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, around one-third of women experience sexual harassment at work. However, women in California and throughout the country may be hesitant to report harassment for a number of reasons including concerns about how it will affect their careers or that they will not be believed. Three-fourths of women who suffered sexual harassment did not discuss it with a union representative or supervisor. Gender discrimination is also an issue, and women report that men are often paid more and promoted more frequently.
Some California employees who have faced sexual harassment in the workplace may have also found that their company's human resources department did not protect them or investigate as effectively as it should have. According to some obervers, some HR departments are more focused on protecting high performers and top executives than responding effectively to sexual harassment complaints. HR departments may run into conflicts because of a lack of independence, and they may find themselves investigating the very people they work for.
California employees may be aware that there has been an increasing number of sexual harassment scandals occurring in large companies. Some of the high-profile cases have included employers such as Fox News, Uber and Sterling Jewelers. There are several reasons why the scandals are occurring and will likely continue to occur.
California women often experience both gender bias and sexual harassment on the job. The problems that are faced by female employees transcend income levels as women in entry-level and executive positions face gender-based employment discrimination. A poll of female advertising industry employees found that 54 percent of women in that occupation feel vulnerable at work because of their gender.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission defines sexual harassment to include verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, requests for sexual favors and unwelcome sexual advances. Incidents of such behavior in California and around the country, though, may be underreported. According to a national survey conducted by Cosmopolitan magazine, 71 percent of women who said they had experienced sexual harassment in the workplace also said they did not report it.