Sexual Harassment of Secretaries & Receptionists: Know Your Rights

Posted by Sessions & Kimball |

Sexual harassment in the workplace is a serious issue that affects people of all genders and occupations. Secretaries, as well as other administrative and support staff, are particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment because they often have little power or status in the workplace. They are often hesitant to report sexual harassment because they fear retaliation from their superiors or colleagues. They may also fear that they won’t be believed, or that their careers will be negatively impacted. If you need help with a sexual harassment claim, contact us to schedule a free consultation.

Types of Sexual Harassment 

The two main types of sexual harassment are quid pro quo and hostile work environment. Quid pro quo occurs when someone with power or authority in a workplace (such as a supervisor) offers privileges or employment benefits in exchange for sexual favors or behavior, or demands sexual behaviors as a way to avoid an adverse employment action.

Hostile work environment occurs when an individual experiences unwelcome comments, jokes, gestures, pictures, emails, texts messages and/or physical contact that are sexually suggestive in nature and create an uncomfortable atmosphere in the workplace.

The Long History of Sexual Harassment Toward Secretaries 

The long history of sexual harassment towards secretaries is a topic that continues to plague many workplaces. In the past, secretaries were often seen as objects and treated inappropriately in the workplace. From unwanted touching and comments about appearance, to demeaning behaviors such as withholding pay or promotions, it’s a sad reality that these types of behaviors have been commonplace in certain work environments. 

This type of abuse has been linked to decreased job satisfaction, physical and mental health issues, and even higher levels of unemployment. Thankfully, there have been significant developments over time to help combat this kind of harassment. Laws have been enacted that make it illegal for employers to discriminate against employees who experience sexual harassment. 

What To Do If You’ve Experienced Sexual Harassment

If you are experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace, it is important to know that you have rights and options. Here are some steps that receptionists and administrative staff can take:

Report Workplace Sexual Harassment 

It is important to make sure the harassment is reported to the appropriate. Depending on your situation, there are various authorities who can help address the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace. 

The first step is usually reporting it to the HR department or your superiors; however, if they do not take action, it may be necessary to contact an outside agency such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).  This agency will investigate your complaint and determine whether legal action needs to be taken against the employer or individual responsible for the harassment. 

All communication with supervisors or HR should be done in writing so you have a record of it. 

Document All Incidents of Sexual Harassment 

For any legal action or investigation into workplace sexual harassment to move forward, it is critical that incidents are properly documented. Make notes about what happened, when it happened, and who the perpetrator was. It is also important to note any witnesses who were present during these incidents as they may serve as valuable evidence. 

Speak With A Lawyer 

In addition to reporting workplace sexual harassment and documenting incidents, it is wise to consult with a lawyer familiar with these types of cases so that you understand all your rights and options moving forward. 

A lawyer can provide invaluable advice on how best to proceed with filing complaints and pursuing legal action should. They can also offer guidance on how best protect yourself from potential retaliation by employers who are aware that complaints have been filed against them.

What to Do if You Experience Retaliation After Reporting Sexual Harassment

If you have experienced sexual harassment and reported it, retaliation, while illegal, is incredibly common. It’s important to know what retaliation looks like and what you can do if you’ve experienced it.

Types of Retaliation for Reporting Sexual Harassment 

Retaliation for reporting sexual harassment can take many forms, some more obvious than others. A few examples include: 

  • Termination or suspension from your job 
  • Being passed up for promotions or pay raises 
  • Being reassigned to less desirable duties or positions within the company 
  • Being subjected to verbal abuse or criticism from colleagues and supervisors 
  • Having your hours cut or being required to work longer days with no extra compensation 
  • Being given a poor performance review based on fabricated evidence  

All these types of retaliation are illegal and can be grounds for filing a lawsuit against your employer. 

Victims of sexual harassment deserve to be heard and to receive justice, no matter the job. If you or someone you know is being sexually harassed in the workplace, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. If you find yourself in this situation, we can help. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.