What is Sexual Harassment and why is it a Union issue?

Sexual harassment is unwanted sexual attention in the workplace.

All Teamsters have a stake in stopping sexual harassment. When we show management that we will defend workers’ rights and insist on basic respect for all, we are much stronger in dealing with other issues as well. On the other hand, if we show management that we can be divided, the employer will exploit our differences.

This booklet will help Teamster officers, stewards, union representatives and members tackle harassment problems in the workplace. It explains what sexual harassment is, what steps unions should-and legally must-take to pro protect sexual harassment victims, and how to prevent future incidents from occurring.

The booklet also explains ways to sharply reduce harass harassment while, at the same time, building local union solidarity

Sexual harassment victims have one thing in common. They are all vulnerable. Some are vulnerable because of their low status in the workplace. They have little power on the job; they need their paychecks; the job market is tight and they have families to support.

When a woman is harassed by someone in a position of authority over her, her livelihood is at stake. She may get a poor recommendation, or an unsatisfactory evaluation on her record. She may lose her raise, her promotion, or even her job.

Or, a harassment victim may be forced to work in a hostile or intimidating environment. This is also sexual harassment even if there is no danger of losing a job benefit, such as a raise or a promotion. Most often, this type of harassment comes from co- workers. While co- workers don’t have the authority to take the job away, the harassment may be so persistent that the job becomes intolerable.

Sexual harassment is a labor concern that should be confronted with the same resources and energy that unions use to attack issues of pay and benefits. Sexual harassment can create an intolerable working condition.

In fact, some experts believe that sexual harassment may be one of the most widespread occupational health hazards women face.

While no comprehensive survey on sexual harassment has yet been completed, studies consistently reveal that 50 to 75 percent of all working women experience some form of on-the-job sexual harassment.

Ninety percent of all sexual harassment complaints are filed by women because of conduct by men. One percent are filed by men, who are harassed by women. And nine per cent are filed by people who are harassed by members of their own sex.

Because the vast majority of sexual harassment complaints are filed by women, victims often are referred to as women in this booklet.

Harassment is Unwanted Sexual Attention.

Sexual attention becomes harassment when it is unwanted. The person who is receiving that attention is the one who has the right to determine whether this attention is wanted or not.

If a person doesn’t want the attention or it makes her uncomfortable—and it persists—the behavior becomes harassment.

Most incidents of sexual harassment have five key characteristics. These provide a useful guideline.

Sexual harassment involves behavior with sexual content.
Sexual harassment is unwelcome.
Sexual harassment is usually repeated. The more extreme the harassment, however, the less often it needs to occur in order to constitute harassment.
Sexual harassment causes the victim discomfort or humiliation.
Sexual harassment affects the victim’s job. The effect can be direct. The supervisor can say, Sleep with me, or you’re fired.” Or the effect can be indirect. A harasser’s behavior can make a victim feel so uncomfortable that she dreads coming to work and works poorly because of it.