Clarifying the issue

October 09, 1991|By Knight-Ridder News Service

Here are answers to some questions about sexual harassment.

Q: What is sexual harassment?

A: Sexual harassment includes any acts, statements or suggestions indicating that an employee's job security, professional advancement, salary, benefits, work assignment or other conditions of employment depend upon tolerating sexual harassment or will be adversely affected by refusing to condone sexual harassment anywhere in the workplace.

Q: What are some examples of sexual harassment?

A: *Unsolicited and unwelcome flirtations, advances or propositions;

*Graphic or degrading comments about an employee's appearance, dress or anatomy;

*Verbal abuse with sexual connotations;

*Display of sexually suggestive objects or pictures;

*Ill-received dirty jokes and offensive gestures;

*Prurient or intrusive questions about an employee's personal life;

*Explicit descriptions of the harasser's own sexual experiences;

*The abuse of familiarities or diminutives such as "honey," "sweetheart," "darling," "dear" or "baby"; this can include referring to adult women as "girls."

L Q: What steps should I take if I am being sexually harassed?

A: One of the most important aspects of any sexual harassment claim is determining that the behavior was unwelcome. It is therefore important that you communicate to your harasser that the attention is unwanted. If the situation persists, report it to your supervisor or to whoever supervises your harasser. If the harassment still persists, begin keeping a written record and continue reporting it to a supervisor. If your company has an internal grievance procedure, file a formal complaint. Finally, if none of these steps works, file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and/or file a claim with a private attorney.

Q: Who are the victims?

A: The overwhelming majority of sexual harassment victims are women. In a 1987 survey of federal employees compiled by the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, 42 percent of the female respondents reported experiencing uninvited or unwanted sexual attention.

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