If you are facing sexual harassment at work, you know it’s about more than just an unwanted word or gesture. Sexual harassment causes all kinds of harmful effects that can damage your health, well-being, and career. Even if you aren’t directly the victim, the hostile workplace created by sexual harassment can have long-lasting effects.
In this blog post, I will discuss the emotional, physical, financial, and systemic effects of sexual harassment at work. I will explain how sexual harassment affects more than just the targeted employee. I will also explain how connecting with an employment discrimination attorney early can help curb the effects of workplace discrimination.
What Counts as Sexual Harassment?
Federal civil rights laws prohibit employers from harassing a person because of that person’s sex. Sexual harassment can include unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, lewd jokes, sexual touching, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. It also includes offensive remarks including stereotypes about a person’s sex in general.
To be enough to support a federal lawsuit, sexual harassment must result in an adverse employment decision. This can include being fired, or not hired, being passed over for promotion, receiving lower wages, or being assigned to worse shifts or duties than your coworkers. If there has been no adverse employment decision, then the pattern of sexual harassment must be so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile work environment.
Even before these standards are met, sexual harassment can have substantial effects on its victims and bystanders who witness the discrimination. If you are facing sexual harassment, here are some effects you can expect to see.
Emotional Effects of Sexual Harassment
According to the women’s law center, Equal Rights Advocates, 90 – 95% of sexually harassed women suffer from some form of debilitating stress reaction. This can include anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, lowered self-esteem, and sexual dysfunction. Some severe cases have even been tied to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
These emotional effects of sexual harassment can begin long before there is an actionable sexual harassment claim. Often, these emotional harms put pressure on employees to “play along” with workplace harassment. If they can’t, then the employees may choose to transfer positions or quit all together.
Physical Effects of Sexual Harassment
Often, the stressful toll of sexual harassment can have physical manifestations as well. The victims of sexual harassment often report weight loss or weight gain, loss of appetite, headaches, and nausea. When the physical effects of sexual harassment manifest in a workplace, it can cause a serious loss of productivity.
Financial Effects of Sexual Harassment
The victim of sexual harassment often has to take sick time or unpaid leave to manage the effects of the discriminatory behaviors, leaving more work to be done by other team members. When conditions fail to improve, the victims may be forced to make the difficult decision to quit. In other cases, the harasser makes the choice for them, firing the employee for failing to meet sexual expectations.
These losses add up. In one person’s life, the loss of employment, particularly if he or she is fired, can cause a cascade of financial problems that continue for years. An unfavorable termination may make it difficult for the sexual harassment victim to find job references or replacement employment.
Systemic Effects of Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment doesn’t just hurt the person targeted for discrimination. Men and women alike can find their work affected by sexual harassment in the workplace. High turnover rates can put pressure on remaining employees to fill the gaps. Hostile workplaces can also be demoralizing on everyone, even bystanders who don’t share the person’s sexual identity.
Even beyond any given employer, the prevalence of sexual harassment against women, in particular, has a cumulative effect of preventing women from asserting themselves in the workplace and at the negotiating table. Those who identify with targeted classes, like women, gay, lesbian, and transgender employees, are less likely as a whole to go for a big promotion or seek a merit-based raise.
How a Sex Discrimination Attorney Can Help
When sexual harassment disrupts your workplace, it can feel like there is no where to turn. However, the experienced sex discrimination attorneys at Eisenberg & Baum, LLP, have strategies to fight back against sexual harassment. We can help you at several steps along the way:
- Identify internal processes, including union complaints, that could remove the harasser or change company policy.
- File a sexual harassment complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
- File a state or federal lawsuit for sex discrimination.
Using these steps, a sex discrimination attorney can help you recover from the effects of sexual harassment. Different levels of the process may entitle you to damages for lost wages, physical harm including medical expenses, emotional harm including distress, and financial losses. You may even be compensated for costs associated with finding a new job.
By getting a sexual harassment attorney involved early, you may be able to save your job and your health at the same time. We are often able to negotiate with an employer before filing a complaint to get the changes you need at work.
It all starts with a confidential consultation. By meeting with our sexual harassment attorneys, you can get help to fight against sexual harassment at your job. If you feel like your employer has created a hostile workplace, contact us. We’ll help create a strategy to file a sexual harassment complaint and get you the relief you need.