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What does it mean to be sexually harassed at work?

*This is a transcript of the Facebook Live video from 4-6-18  Click here to watch the video.

The first question is pretty straightforward. What does it mean to be sexually harassed at work? Again, as I said, the answer to that question is really kind of a case-by-case scenario, because no harasser is the same. No environment is the same. No person is the same. Basically, sexual harassment is any unwelcome conduct or language that’s based on your sex that affects your ability to do your job correctly. It can take many, many formats. It can take the format of somebody belittling you because of your sex or your gender. It can take the form of propositioning, comments about your appearance, comments about your sex life. I had one case several years ago, when I first started doing this work, where my client worked for a financial trading firm. One of the witnesses in her sexual harassment trial talked about how she would prepare herself mentally to go onto the male-dominated trading floor. My client was the only female trader, and this particular witness was a trading assistant. She used to say that before she would open the doors of that trading floor, that she would put on her mental armor so that she could walk that gauntlet and not hear the comments that were being made. It was very powerful testimony.

I always say that if you’re in a truly sexually harassive environment, there’s no way to mistake it. I’m not talking about a joke here and there. I’m not talking about someone complimenting another person on their appearance, although those are kind of gateway conversations that can morph into sexual harassment. What I’m really talking about are two kinds of things. One is the environment that, as we’ve discussed, comments, suggestive posters, anything that degrades women or anything that tries to make sex and their sexuality an objective. The other is what we have described as quid pro quo sexual harassment, and that is when a supervisor is asking for sexual favors, a supervisor is joking or maybe serious that if you exchange sexual favors then promotions become easier, that sort of thing. The two can kind of overlap a little bit, because if you’re getting a lot of attention sexually from a coworker or supervisor, that can turn into quid pro quo harassment, but it also can be the basis of a claim in and of itself.

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