When it comes to sexual harassment in the workplace, many women keep quiet about serious issues rather than risk being viewed as whiner or complainer to colleagues or management. Or perhaps they just aren’t sure it counts as sexual harassment so they don’t want to speak up because they are afraid they are just being paranoid.
Or maybe they’ve convinced themselves that what they are going through is normal, or they’ve just decided they could live with it rather than get a bad reputation. If you can relate to any of the below, it’s time to speak up.
You find yourself overthinking what you wear.
If getting dressed in the morning has become an arduous process that entails trying to find the least flattering items in your closet in order to avoid compliments from certain coworkers, something isn’t right. Your attire shouldn’t elicit inappropriate or unwanted advances, no matter what you are wearing. You shouldn’t have to spend time each day contemplating whether your outfit will cause unwanted commentary.
You have a specific path to the restroom so you don’t have to walk by his office.
If you’ve mapped out a course to the restroom that goes a half mile out of the way just to avoid walking by your boss’s office for fear he’ll ask you to come in, this is a red flag. It is illegal for your boss to make unwanted sexual advances, even if he claims they are a joke or tells you that you’ll lose your job if you don’t comply.
You avoid common spaces.
The break room is off limits. You avoid the cafeteria as best you can. Anything you can do to avoid the group of men who congregate together and make creepy comments, you’ll do it. You’ve missed many a going away gathering or skipped lunch just because you didn’t want to subject yourself to the office catcallers. If a group of people have made a hobby out of making you feel uncomfortable, you are not to blame and you shouldn’t have to put up with it.
You filter his emails into a specific folder so you don’t even have to see them.
You know whenever you get an email from him, it’s going to be some sort of dirty joke or lewd image. Even though you specifically asked him to stop sending them, he still does. Instead, you’ve just created a filter so that all of his emails go into a special folder you can delete weekly without ever reading them.
If you can relate to any of the above scenarios, it’s time to take action. Speak to your HR department. Your employer is required to protect you. If things have gone beyond what your employer seems willing to handle, it might be time to contact an attorney. Going to work shouldn’t be this hard.