How Common Is Sexual Harassment in State Government?

What Is Sexual Harassment

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Sexual Harassment is defined as any form of unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal and physical harassment of a sexual nature.

Sexual Harassment is commonly divided into two categories: “Quid Pro Quo” and Hostile Environment:

  • Quid Pro Quo – a Latin phrase translated into “this for that” – involves expressing or implying demands for sexual favors in exchange for a benefit or to avoid unfair treatment in the workplace.
    • Examples include a promotion, pay increase, termination
  • Hostile Environment – involves when unwelcome conduct of sexual nature creates an intimidating, demeaning, or abusive work environment.
    • Examples include inappropriate touching, sexual jokes or comments, offensive pictures displayed in the work environment

Unlike Quid Pro Quo, a hostile work environment is more difficult to recognize as individual comments may not be severe, demeaning behavior may not always occur on the basis of sex, or long periods may occur between these offensive incidents. This commonly “brushes off” incidents as people can perceive them to be a part of the conformity in the work environment. The severity of the issues can be underestimated by many.

Sexual Harassment Within Government Positions and Agencies

The question of how common sexual harassment is within government positions and agencies raises concerns.

While these issues arise in every state, the Executive Office of Health and Human Resources, Massachusetts’s largest state agency, documented approximately 94 complaints. Of those, the Department of Developmental services reported 23. However, many experts go on to say that agencies should not be negatively judged solely on the basis of how many complaints they have. The high numbers may indicate the department is better at tracking and documenting sexual harassment complaints.

It is important to note that many sexual harassment incidents go unreported over the victim’s fear of the repercussions. Historically, retaliation of those who speak out is common so many choose to stay quiet. Many victims rarely receive restorative justice and rather end up facing public scrutiny, disallowing them opportunities to continue their careers.

The #MeToo movement has caused an optimistic shift in bringing attention to the workplace harassment of women. Many across the nation are more feeling empowered to speak out with the sense they will receive justice. This has brought discussions and awareness of the prevailing issues in the workplace. Organizations, such as the National Institutions of Health, have implemented programs and resources to prevent and address allegations of sexual harassment.

Is It Happening in Your Workplace?

It is important to recognize the behaviors of sexual harassment and identify if they are occurring in your workplace.

Things to look for:

  • Comments about someone’s appearance
  • Using gender-based or sexual orientation-based slurs (swear words)
  • Unwanted requests or advances for sexual favors or dates
  • Unwanted or inappropriate touching of any part of the body
  • Making vulgar or explicit jokes about sex or sexual acts

More details in dealing with sexual harassment in the workplace can be found here.

What Should I Do About It?

You do not have to deal with this alone. Contacting a lawyer to represent you is important because they can help you understand your right and how to protect them.

Scott Gilmore Thompson is here to help you! Contact Matt today!