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How is sexual harassment a form of workplace discrimination?

On Behalf of | Jan 15, 2024 | Discrimination, Sexual Harassment |

New York is a progressive state where people from all walks of life should have the same opportunities as everyone else without experiencing any form of discrimination. Discrimination is treating another person differently and unfairly because of their protected class, including sex.

Sexual harassment is a form of workplace discrimination because it is a type of behavior that undermines the principle of equal opportunity. It creates an intimidating, unpleasant or offensive work environment based on sex. When an employee is uncomfortable in their workplace because of unwanted sexual advances and remarks, it can affect their ability to work on an equal footing with others.

Sexual harassment as a deterrent to equality

Sexual harassment is a deterrent to equality in the workplace because it creates an unequal and hostile environment that can impede an individual’s professional growth, job performance and emotional well-being. Here are several ways in which sexual harassment undermines equality:

  • Prevents victims from career growth: Victims of sexual harassment may avoid certain work situations, decline job assignments or even turn down promotions to escape harassment. It can limit their career advancement and opportunities.
  • Psychologically affects the victim: The experience of sexual harassment can lead to psychological trauma, including stress, anxiety, depression and a lack of confidence. It can affect an individual’s ability to perform their job effectively and assert themselves professionally.
  • Isolates the victim: Individuals who experience harassment might isolate themselves to avoid it. Consequently, they miss networking opportunities, mentorships and team collaborations that are essential for professional development.
  • Causes the victim to suffer economic losses: Victims of sexual harassment may take sick leaves, unpaid leaves or even resign from their jobs to escape the harassment. When sexual harassment is so pervasive and damaging, victims may choose to lose income or discontinue their careers rather than risk facing harassment at work.
  • Reinforces gender stereotypes: People who sexually harass others in the workplace do not necessarily do it because they want to have sex with the victim. They do it to show they have power over the victim. Sexual harassment often reinforces harmful gender stereotypes and power imbalances, which can perpetuate a culture where inequality thrives.

A workplace where sexual harassment occurs can develop a culture of fear and mistrust, which affects not only the victims but also the morale and productivity of the entire workforce. Instead of a cooperative and beneficial relationship between colleagues, it becomes one where the harasser is a predator, and the victim is the prey.