Is it happening to you? Do you hear offensive jokes every day, see ugly stuff on bulletin boards, or get explicit comments on social media? Sexual harassment in the workplace covers actions by coworkers, clients, customers or managers. In macho companies or industries, women are especially likely to feel they have to go along. For example, in a study described in Harvard Business Review, researchers reported how a female software engineer made light of it, saying, “I had a guy ask me if I’ve had any work done up there…. I’ve learned to respond kind of with the funny thing. I said, ‘I sure have. I just had a crown and a root canal last week.’”
Don’t ignore your emotions and any symptoms that follow. Some women may find that an underlying problem they had under control is re-triggered — or develop symptoms for the first time, such as depression, anxiety, muscle aches, and headaches. Labor lawyer Nannina Angioni, after working on hundreds of cases says, "Employees talk of having a pit in their stomach commuting to work, having anxiety, panic attacks, inexplicable fits of crying, and physical manifestations of stress: hair falling out, hives, weight gain or loss, sleeplessness, and lethargy."
If you decide to fight back, look up your company’s policies and follow any procedures.
The ideal first step is to directly tell the harasser that you are uncomfortable and want the behavior to stop. If you speak in person, make sure you take notes on what you each said. You can follow up with a short letter (make a copy) or email sent from the company email address. If facing your harasser is too hard, you could start with the email or you could speak to a supervisor or someone from human resources instead.
February 27, 2020
Janet O’Dell, RN