It used to be that if you asked someone what workplace sexual harassment looked like, they would give you an example of a male supervisor harassing a female employee. He’s using his position of power not just to harass the victim, but in the hope that she won’t report his actions out of fear of losing her job.
Sexual harassment doesn’t just include making explicit comments or sexual comments. It could get be more gender-based harassment, such as saying things to or in front of an employee that are demeaning of people of their gender in general. Either way, the assumption has traditionally been that women are being harassed by men.
The historical context of workplace sexual harassment
It is important to note that sexual harassment of women occurs more than harassment of men. Historically, men have held more leadership positions in the workplace than women have, so they’ve traditionally been in a position to use their power to victimize others.
However, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is very clear that harassers and their victims can be male or female. For instance, a female supervisor could make demeaning comments about a male employee who works for her. A male manager could sexually harass a male employee. It is still illegal, and all employees deserve fair, ethical treatment.
If you have been harassed on the job, regardless of your gender or the gender of the person harassing you, it’s important to know all of the legal options you have. You do not have to put up with this type of difficult workplace environment.