What Are the Effects of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace?

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Sexual harassment effects in the workplace.The effects of sexual harassment in the workplace are as harsh as they are long-lasting. Obviously, the victim of sexual harassment suffers the worst effects. These include psychological consequences like depression and repressed anger. The effects of sexual harassment in the workplace also include physical and financial problems.

Yet the victim is not the only one who suffers from sexual harassment. Sexual harassment also impacts the victim’s coworkers, their department, and their company. It even affects society as a whole.

If you think you have been sexually harassed in the workplace, it’s essential to know that you’re not alone. Consider consulting an attorney today so that you can stop being a victim and become a defender of your rights.

First Things First: What Is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment can take on almost an endless number of forms. Sometimes, it can be almost unnoticeable and infrequent. Other times, it can be obvious and constant. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines sexual harassment as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature” that either:

  • Affect a person’s employment;
  • Unreasonably interfere with a person’s work performance; or
  • Create an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.

Although it isn’t a comprehensive list, here are some common examples of sexual harassment:

  • Your coworker or supervisor constantly sends you sexual text messages;
  • Your boss tells you that you’ll get a promotion or raise if you have sex with them;
  • Your ex, who is also your coworker, keeps trying to restart a romantic relationship with you even after you’ve turned them down; and
  • Your colleague makes constant offensive comments about your gender or sex.

It is important to note that it doesn’t matter whether the harasser is the same or opposite sex as the sexual harassment victim.

Because sexual harassment comes in so many different shapes and sizes, it’s best to contact an unwanted sexual advances attorney who is familiar with the applicable laws and experienced with conducting workplace sexual harassment cases.

Sexual Coercion Can Be Sexual Harassment

Sexual coercion is typically used by harassers to intimidate, trick, or force an employee into submission and compliance or into a sexual act in the workplace. Workplace sexual coercion is a complex range of behaviors and can occur in forms that involve status, deception, physical power, and a range of physical and emotional tools designed to punish and reward a victim. Where an employee feels coerced, forced, or uncomfortable to engage in any kind of physical, emotional, or sexual workplace conduct or contact, they may be a victim of sexual coercion.

In some instances, sexual coercion consists not only of illegal sexual harassment – it can also become criminal sexual assault.

The Effects of Sexual Harassment

It’s almost impossible to understate the effects of sexual harassment. No matter what the exact circumstances are, there are many effects of sexual harassment.

These can be physical, emotional, and even financial. They can impact the individual just as much as they can impact a company’s bottom line. Sexual harassment affects every one of us.

Individual Impacts

As you can imagine, the person who is sexually harassed in the workplace suffers the most. Emotional effects include anger, embarrassment, guilt, and fear. Sexual harassment can also harm the vicitm’s self-esteem and induce anxiety attacks. Anxiety can have a severe impact on a person’s home life, leaving little emotional space for one’s partner, family, and friends.

Emotional effects are by no means the only effects if someone is being sexually harassed in the workplace. Because a person’s physical health is intimately connected with their emotional health, there are physical reactions to sexual harassment. These include loss of appetite, nausea, weight loss or weight gain, headaches, migraines, and loss of sleep. Victims also experience high blood pressure and may begin abusing alcohol or other substances.

The emotional and physical consequences often lead in turn to financial losses. Victims, afraid of facing harassment, may take unpaid leave. In serious cases, they quit their jobs for other positions with lower pay or a longer commute just to avoid the ongoing sexual harassment. Such moves can cause cascading effects that permanently damage a person’s career trajectory.

Such moves can cause cascading effects that permanently damage a person’s career trajectory. Longer commutes can further damage one’s mental health, family life, and work-life balance. The impacts of sexual harassment can therefore snowball into a veritable avalanche.

Company-Wide Consequences

Many people are surprised by the effects of sexual harassment in the workplace on third parties and the workforce as a whole. The victim of sexual harassment will certainly perform less effectively because of the physical and emotional effects of harassment. Over time, the number of harassment victims can multiply as harassers target several successive victims or create a culture where workplace harassment is accepted. In turn, this effect can cause whole teams and departments to struggle with higher employee turnover.

On top of that, the companies will almost certainly face productivity losses as employees call in sick frequently, quit suddenly, or become disgruntled.

Yet another consequence of sexual harassment in the workplace is crashing company morale. Hostile work environments can demoralize an entire team or department. High turnover causes extra stress for the employees who choose to remain with the company, while employees who witness sexual harassment experience “presenteeism” and “check out” of the toxic workplace out of fear of retaliation.

Finally, companies can have their reputation and profitability destroyed by sexual harassment lawsuits.

As you can see, workplace sexual harassment effects can be severe for both victims and the companies that employ both the harassed and the harasser.

Societal Effects

The effects of sexual harassment in the workplace don’t stop at the company level. The EEOC reported an average of approximately 13,000 sexual harassment complaints every year between 1997 and 2011. And those were just the reported claims of sexual harassment!

While the true number of sexual harassment cases is unknown, a study by Deloitte estimated the economic effects of sexual harassment in the Australian workplace to be over $2.6 billion in 2018. This figure includes not only lost productivity, but also the cost of healthcare, medical treatment and psychiatric therapy, the investigation and resolution of sexual harassment complaints, and the lost wellbeing of victims.

In short, sexual harassment isn’t just an individual problem. It’s a society-wide issue that affects all of us in some way or another.

Contact an Experienced Unwanted Sexual Advances Lawyer Today

If you’ve been sexually harassed at the workplace, the prospect of suing your employer can appear daunting and scary.

At Smithey Law Group LLC, we understand how much pain and trauma workplace sexual harassment can cause, and we don’t want you to fight against your employer alone.

In addition, we know litigation and employment law, and have written countless publications on the topic of sexual harassment. On top of that, our legal team has won countless awards and regularly appears in print and broadcast media.

Let’s discuss your rights and legal options together. Then, we can advocate for your best interests and help you stand up to your employer. Give us a call today at 410-919-2990 or contact us online.

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Joyce Smithey, a seasoned employment and labor law attorney, has over 22 years of experience representing both employers and employees in Maryland and D.C. Her practice, rooted in a deep understanding of employment law, spans administrative hearings to federal litigation. Joyce's approach is comprehensive, focusing on protecting client interests while ensuring legal compliance. A Harvard graduate, her career began in Fortune 500 companies, transitioning to law after a degree from Boston University School of Law. Joyce's expertise is recognized by numerous awards, including Maryland’s Top 100 Women. At Smithey Law Group LLC, which she founded in 2018, Joyce continues to champion employment rights, drawing on her rich background in law and business.

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