Sexual harassment of men should not be treated as a joke

On behalf of Philip Taubman

Women can sometimes be as guilty of unsavory workplace behavior as men. This fact is illustrated by a report on the One News website about a male accounts coordinator who sued his former employer, a Manhattan public relations firm, for sexual harassment. The suit alleged that the man was harassed by two of his former female coworkers. Specifically, he asserted that he was "relentlessly groped and constantly propositioned for sex" by two "aggressive, female tormentors." In addition, the man alleged that he was sent lewd text messages and given unwanted details about the women's various sexual encounters.

As noted in International Business Times, the typical paradigm of a male executive making sexual advances toward a female employee does not neatly fit all sexual harassment encounters. Sometimes, men are the targets of sexual harassment perpetrated against them by women. In other instances, men are the victims of male-on-male sexual harassment. Newsweek has reported that sexual harassment often has more to do with issues of "control and abuses of power" than sexual attraction. Many perpetrators of harassment are attempting to humiliate and demonstrate their supposed superiority over a victim rather flirt or make a sexual advance towards them.

The Society for Human Resource Management observes that sexual harassment is often treated by employers and their HR departments as being primarily a "women's issue." As a result, nontraditional sexual harassment complaints made by men are often either not taken seriously or, worse, treated as a joke. Such a response by companies ignores the stark reality that sexual harassment charges filed by men with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have doubled over the past two decades with no signs of abating.

According to the SHRM, one explanation for the rise in reported male harassment cases is that more sexual harassment of men is now occurring in the workplace than ever before. Another explanation is that men have simply become more comfortable "lodging complaints about sexual harassment." Men who in prior years might have quit their jobs rather than complain about sexual harassment are now more apt to file a complaint or a lawsuit in order to address the problem.

Impact on health

According to Live Science magazine, victims of sexual harassment often cannot perform their jobs as well as non-harassed employees and become less productive. Moreover, victims of sexual harassment are at risk for numerous health problems. Studies have shown that victims of sexual harassment are often plagued by feelings of self-doubt and self-blame which can easily turn into long-term depression. In addition, many studies have found a direct link between incidents of sexual harassment and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder which includes periodically re-experiencing the trauma.

Sexual harassment victims can also suffer from physiological problems. Those subjected to sexual harassment often experience sleep disturbances since victims can be haunted by nightmares or lie awake late at night agonizing over acts of harassment aimed at them. In addition victims often suffer from high blood pressure which increases the risk of sustaining other serious health problems. Finally, it is believed that sexual harassment may trigger "the same type of physiological reactions as stress" which is believed to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Seek legal assistance

Sexual harassment in the workplace is illegal under both New York law and federal law. If you are being subjected to acts of workplace sexual harassment, you should contact a New York attorney experienced in handling employment law cases as soon as possible.