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In theory, every workplace should be a fair, egalitarian area. Unfortunately, that is often not going to be the case, especially for women in male-dominated workplaces. This is not an inherent element in such male-dominated workplaces, but it is all too common that those kinds of workplaces prove inhospitable for women, especially when it comes to them being the victims of sexual harassment. But how should you be handling sexual harassment in a male-dominated workplace?
Handling sexual harassment in a male-dominated workplace
Sexual harassment is not uncommon; however, it is even rarer that when it occurs, that the victim does not do anything about it. This is not because they do not want to come forward, but rather, the environments that encourage sexual harassment in the first place are the ones that also discourage people from talking about the incidents as they occur. The victim is likely not the first person to have suffered sexual harassment in this company, and just as likely not the last, so long as the permissive attitudes at the company continue. Plus, their victims are often retaliated against if they actually were to come forward with this information. Saying anything at all is rare enough, but for those who do, almost none of them actually go further than that by making a formal complaint.
It is always going to be a harrowing situation, coming forward against your harasser in a male-dominated workplace, but there are options available for you. When the actual incident happens, be sure to file a report with your management that you were a victim of sexual harassment. The only thing that staying quiet or waiting to file a report is going to do is lend credence to the idea that your claim of sexual harassment is lacking merit. This is, of course, not true on its own, but it may make people perceive your situation that way.
In an ideal world, this would end with an investigation that, if found in your favor, sees your harasser adequately punished for their actions. Unfortunately, that is not how the world often works. You should be mindful of what kind of reaction others in the company begin having towards you. For example, if you experience cuts in hours or a sharp increase in labor allotted to you following your report, this could serve as evidence that your employer is retaliating against you. Another piece of potential evidence comes in the form of write-ups. Employers looking to justify firing an employee in retaliation for reporting abuse in the company will all too often resort to using these to serve as evidence.
Fortunately, if you have few to no write-ups before this point, it would prove to be a rather foolhardy move on their part. All it takes is for someone to notice the sheer coincidence that your alleged misbehavior only began to occur once you had made an accusation of misbehavior on another employee. Not only would this shine even greater light on the company than your original report could have shone, but it would result in them receiving significantly harsher punishments for retaliating against you like this.
Be sure to keep a strong record of evidence. Witness testimony, obtaining security footage (if available), and finding evidence of similar behavior could all do a world of good for your case. The sooner you can get this evidence, the better; after all, if you take too long, the evidence may begin to dry up.
In the event that you do suffer from a form of retaliation, the first thing you should consider doing is consulting with a sexual harassment lawyer. The reason one should consider this is that there are certain careful steps that need to be taken when making a sexual harassment claim. There are certain right ways and wrong ways to do this. Not in terms of what should be done, but what is most likely to be effective for your case.
That being said, if you have not yet faced retaliation or do not intend to immediately take legal action, you should be careful about making clear that you have retained the services of a sexual harassment lawyer. Telling them that you have done so can escalate the situation to a point that it does not necessarily need to reach. A person who is perhaps willing to discuss matters civilly when it is just between you and them may be less inclined to react positively if the idea of legal action against the company is a possibility.
While women tend to be the most likely to face harassment in the workplace — sexual or otherwise — that does not mean that they are the only victims to be found. As such, while these kinds of environments tend to benefit men, that does not mean that all men benefit from the system.
You may also like: Preventing and Responding to Harassment in the Workplace
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