The #MeToo movement has shined light on sexual harassment and sexual assault in the workplace and work-related events. However, there is still a value in increasing knowledge, training, and education when it comes to sexual harassment and sexual assault in the workplace.
In light of this, it’s vital that employees take the time to understand what sexual harassment and sexual assault are in the workplace, and how certain employment situations may make them more vulnerable than others. As an employee, it is important to know that such misconduct can happen to anyone, and if it happens to you, you are not alone – we are here to help.
If you are employed in one of these situations, there is a greater risk that you will experience sexual assault or harassment in the workplace. 
- Working in a Setting with Significant Power Differentials. Many workplaces have a significant power disparity between supervisors and employees. These power imbalances can be a risk factor for sexual harassment and sexual assault. While sexual harassment and sexual assault can involve any gender combination, women are particularity vulnerable in these situations, as they are less likely than men to hold a senior level position Many high-level executives or ‘rain-makers’ may believe that they can take advantage of subordinates with their power, and that they do not need to comply with rules that govern other employees. Oftentimes their victims feel left with no choice but to submit to the advances made by their supervisor who holds the power to limit their employment opportunities or retaliate against them, if the supervisor does not get what they want. These victims are less likely to report the misconduct out of fear of retaliation or termination.
- Workplace Events Involving Alcohol. Alcohol lowers inhibitions and rational decision-making, which makes employees particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment and sexual assault when alcohol is involved at work-related events. Sexual assault or harassment may occur at a conference, business trip, retreat, or seminar, when individuals are outside of normal employment contexts and more likely to consume alcohol. It may also occur at a work-related dinner or happy hour. While technically not “in the workplace”, these situations, if work-related, may fall under the umbrella of sexual assault and harassment in the workplace.
- Working in an Isolated Context. Many workers, such as hotel workers, janitors, overnight shift workers, domestic care workers, or those who work in isolated buildings, spaces, or times, report higher than average rates of sexual harassment and sexual assault.  These isolated workplaces leave employees vulnerable to perpetrators, who may feel emboldened by a lack of witnesses or surveillance. Low-wage work is more likely to take place in smaller, less formalized workplaces without official reporting mechanisms or a human resource department, making low-wage earners also more vulnerable.
- Women Working in a Male-Dominated Job. Women who work in traditionally male-oriented jobs or environments (such as manual labor, military, etc.), and women working in occupations where they are a small minority may be especially vulnerable to sexual harassment and sexual assault.
- Tip Employees. Employees who work for tips, such as wait staff, bartenders, and hotel housekeepers, account for approximately 14% of harassment charges with the EEOC.  Many employees continue to work in these jobs despite sexual harassment and sexual assault, as these tips are a necessary component of their income.
We Are Here To Help
Sexual harassment, including sexual assault, is a form of sex discrimination and is a civil rights violation under federal and Minnesota law, and the laws of many other states. Each and every employee has a right to be safe and free from unwanted sexual contact or advances in the workplace. The attorneys at Halunen Law are trained to handle these challenging cases with the utmost sensitivity and care. We pride ourselves on standing up for the victims of sexual harassment and sexual assault and demand accountability from those responsible.
If you have been a victim of sexual harassment or sexual assault in the workplace, or in the course of work-sponsored events, you are not alone. Contact us today.
When employment attorney Amanda Crain joined Halunen Law, she brought an astute understanding of client emotional trauma, conflict, and complex legal matters. Selected for the Minnesota Super Lawyers Rising Stars list consecutively since 2014, she is committed to do what’s right for employees facing wrongful termination, discrimination, harassment, or other illegal workplace practices. Learn more about attorney Amanda Crain.