Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

I know this article is off topic for this blog. But, it’s worth discussing due to its very nature. Feel free to leave your comments in the comments section below. And now, let the discussion begin.

How far is too far? There doesn’t seem to be a definitive line written in stone. Some may argue that any level of sexual advance is too far. Still, others exert that “there’s nothing wrong with a little office flirting.”

Recently, I was having a discussion with a coworker. I am of the baby-boomer generation, while he is of the millennial generation. The question at hand was; is asking a co-worker on a date sexual harassment? I replied with a firm “No”. My coworker said “yes it is”. I exerted that if you simply ask someone out on a date, just once, then it’s not sexual harassment. My generation simply views this as a way to start dating someone we are interested in. Even if that someone is a coworker. I mean, come on, the workplace is where you spend most of your waking hours. You interact with these people and know them a great deal more than someone you meet at a bar, store, mall, etc. He still insisted that it was sexual harassment. I ended with; not if you just ask once or twice and then drop it. Granted, if you hound them about it, then yes, I can see your point. The conversation closed as a point in which we simply had to agree to disagree and left it at that.

But I digress, the real subject at hand is sexual harassment of the physical nature. When people cross the line, both morally and legally. Read the following example and try to be open-minded despite your typical and, dare I say, embedded prejudices.

A boss works diligently to get a worker in an office alone. The boss’s intentions are obvious and all too common. We see it play out all around the world in large and small businesses alike. As a society, we condemn these actions and rightly so.

The pressure that an employee feels when the boss approaches, knowing what the boss wants and also knowing that the employee has kids at home that depend on this paycheck. It’s what provides food, shelter, school clothes and supplies, and a hundred more things that are needed. The boss knows this and uses it to their advantage.

Imagine that one day, the boss gets the employee trapped in a secluded office at the close of business. All the other employees are clocking out and going home. Within minutes, the two are all that’s left in the building. The pressure mounts, the employee starts to sweat, nerves are in overdrive. But, what can I do? I need this job and pushing the boss back will certainly mean I am fired. Oh sure, it’s easy to say, “just get up and leave.” It’s easy to say, but have you been in that position? Do you know how hard this situation really is? I can push my boss away, but I will be homeless in less than a month. How will I explain that to my kids? If I just take the sexual advances, then I can keep my job. I may even get a raise and promotion. What would you sacrifice for your kids’ health and future?

The boss moves in like a shark after its prey. The fondling begins, kisses on the cheek and neck, working downward as buttons start opening. The boss’s hands glide slowly down into places that only my spouse should be touching.

Imagine what the employee is going through. Imagine the shame the employee feels. Imagine the hate the employee feels toward the boss. Can you see this scene in your mind’s eye? Are imagining the two at the office, alone?

Now, imagine that the boss is a man.

Oh wait, were you already thinking the pursuer was a man? There’s that embedded prejudice that I mentioned earlier.

This scenario was a real-life incident where the aggressor, the boss, was a female and the employee was a male.

Sexual harassment is not always from a male boss to a female employee.

It’s a fact that, of all the sexual harassment charges that are filed every year, they only make up a small fraction of incidents that actually occur when a male boss forces a female employee into sexual acts.

Now, imagine how many incidents go unreported when the boss is a female, and the employee is a male. Yes, it really does happen and an alarming amount.

So, what is your take on the subject? Is a little office flirting okay? Is it okay to ask a co-worker out on a date? Leave your comments below.

Thank you.