Sexual harassment is often aimed at highly educated women

The Indianapolis Star recently reported about a Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals decision involving a lawsuit filed against the State of Indiana by a former employee of the Pendleton Correctional Facility. The appellate court ruled that a lower court erred in rejecting the former employee’s claim of having been subjected to a hostile work environment. The case appears to be an almost stereotypical sexual harassment lawsuit. It is alleged that male employees routinely gawked and made suggestive and sexually charged comments to female employees coupled with the making of lewd jokes and comments about their anatomy. Moreover, it was alleged that supervisory personnel were fully aware that the prison workplace was “saturated” with sexual comments aimed at female employees but took no action to stop it.

Sexual harassment can occur in any type of workplace. Women and men can be the victims of sexual harassment just as both women and men can be the perpetrators of harassment. Typically, women are more often subjected to sexual harassment in the workplace than men. According to a study cited in an ABC News report, one in four women has experienced workplace sexual harassment while one in 10 men has.

Sexual harassment is often aimed at professional women with advanced educational degrees. Computer World reports that 63 percent of women in the fields of engineering, technology and science have endured sexual harassment, which includes racy jokes, lewd comments and sexual innuendo.

According to a recent article published in the Daily Beast, a survey of female scientists from 32 different disciplines concluded that roughly two-thirds had experienced some form of sexual harassment. The harassment ranged from inappropriate sexual remarks to comments about their anatomical appearance and sexist jokes. One in five of those surveyed reported being the victim of physical sexual harassment consisting of unwarranted and nonconsensual sexual contact. The women who were harassed typically worked under the supervision of the perpetrators of the harassment.

Many of the female scientists never reported the harassment. It was observed that “aspiring academics” are well aware of the difficulties of securing a respectable position within highly specialized scientific disciplines and some women worried about whether they might face retaliation if they reported sexual harassment. Of those who did file a complaint, the majority indicated that they ended up highly dissatisfied with the outcome of having reported the harassment.

Dealing with harassment

Business Women Magazine notes that no one needs to tolerate sexual harassment in the workplace since it is forbidden by both state and federal law. It is suggested that if you find yourself victimized by sexual harassment, you should speak up immediately and let the harasser know that you find the comments offensive and will not tolerate them. If necessary, set forth the consequences of what will happen if the harasser does not cease the harassment.

An indirect method used by some people to deal with a harasser is to email him or her and inform them that the harassment must stop immediately. Sending an email has the advantage of documenting that you made a written objection to the harassment and demanded that it cease. If the harassment continues, you should go directly to human resources and report the offensive conduct.

Seeking legal advice

Do not permit yourself to be the silent victim of a hostile work environment. If you are experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace or are experiencing workplace discrimination, you should contact an Indiana attorney experienced in handling employment law cases.