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Is systemic workplace sexual harassment affecting the health and safety of employees?

Workplace sexual harassment prevention

There is often little comfort and safety for women who encounter sexual harassment and misconduct in the workplace. According to an article in The Conversation, this has been an ongoing problem at AMP Corporation.

In August of 2020, AMP's chairman David Murray and board member John Fraser resigned following a "revolt by female employees" that occurred in July. This came after it had been revealed that the newly appointed chief executive of the company's investment management division was disciplined for sexual harassment in 2017.

While the promotion gained some support, many people within the company didn't find it appropriate. In fact, such a promotion is a part of a much larger systemic problem that exists in many workplaces. Sexual harassment is often swept under the rug because of the threat it poses to a company's bottom line, rather than the risk it poses to the health and safety of employees.

This raises concerns about how sexual harassment is treated in most workplaces According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), sexual harassment constitutes sexual discrimination and violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which applies to employers with 15 or more employees.

Sexual harassment includes:

  • Unwanted sexual advances
  • Requests for sexual favors
  • Sexually based or suggestive verbal or physical conduct
  • Conduct that can interfere with an employee's work performance
  • Conduct that creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment

How can sexual harassment affect the health and safety of employees?

According to an NBC News article, sexual harassment can have an impact on the physical and mental health of those affected by it. The article cites Dr. Colleen Cullen, a licensed clinical psychologist, who said that victims of sexual harassment may experience depression, anxiety and possibly post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

"An experience [with sexual harassment] can either trigger symptoms of depression and anxiety that are new to the person; or it can exacerbate a previous condition that may have been controlled or resolved. Patients may also see a worsening of symptoms," says Dr. Cullen. "Some research has found that sexual harassment early in one's career in particular can [cause] long-term depressive symptoms."

Dr. Cullen cited an 2011 study that linked stressors associated with sexual harassment with mental health complications.

In addition, the mental and emotional trauma linked to sexual harassment can manifest into physical symptoms. These often include:

  • Muscle aches
  • Headaches
  • Chronic pain
  • High blood pressure
  • Possibly heart disease

When it comes to safety, sexual harassment can potentially lead to violence, stalking and blackmailing in order to keep victims from speaking out. When victims feel intimated or fear the potential consequences of coming forward, the cycle of sexual harassment can continue to be a problem. Moreover, the problem never gets addressed when perpetrators are rewarded with promotions and kept in positions where they can continue their behavior.

Why hire a workplace sexual harassment lawyer?

If you are a victim of workplace sexual harassment, you should not have to live in fear of speaking out. The Salt Lake City attorneys at Andrus Law Firm urge you to recognize the rights you have as an employee. We urge you to report incidents such as this to higher management or your human resources department.

If the perpetrator isn't properly dealt with and the problem persists, our law firm can help you take legal action. To learn more, contact us online and schedule your free legal consultation.

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