November 29th, 2011

Sexual harassment in Minnesota and around the country, unfortunately, is not a thing of the past.

When workplace sexual harassment comes up in conversation, many people think back to previous decades. Those dated training videos from the 1980s may pop into mind, or news coverage of the Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas controversy, or even thoughts of “Mad Men”-era office gender roles.

However, sexual harassment is still a tangible issue in 2011 and it will continue to be in 2012.

A recent news report states that although the number of harassment complaints is declining nationwide, two-thirds of Americans still feel that it is a workplace problem. In fact, one in four working women said she has been sexually harassed on the job, according to a recent poll.

In Minnesota, sexual harassment reports have remained consistent for the past 11 years, representing about 11 percent of total workplace complaints, according to the report.

Additionally, there are certain types of harassment reports that are actually on the rise nationally. These include same-sex complaints as well as new modes of harassment; often, the Internet, e-mail and cell phones are used as way to communicate inappropriate messages – and as tools to track evidence of such poor behavior.

Positive news from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is that, nationally, workplace sexual harassment complaints have tapered considerably from 2008 to 2011. But, the drop is due both to less harassment actually happening as well as to companies increasingly handling the complaints in-house.

Of course, there are always cases of such workplace misconduct that go unreported as well. A Twin Cities corporate trainer interviewed in the article said that employees still hesitate to stand up for their rights when the harassment comes from someone in a superior position.

Especially in this economy, she said, people may fear losing their jobs if they complain.

However, regardless of the job market or the rates and evolving methods of harassment, one thing has always remained consistent. That is that everyone deserves to be treated with respect in the workplace. Whether male or female; a part of a large corporation or a local, small business; in a managerial or associate position – every single person must be treated fairly.

Source: Star Tribune, “Sex harassment neither gone nor forgotten,” Kristin Tillotson, Nov. 27, 2011.

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