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How to Protect Yourself from Sexual Harassment Charges November 26, 2008

Posted by dapinoyemployee in Da Pinoy Employee, Working with Bosses and Officemates.
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I have two older posts that offer tips on protecting yourself from sexual harassment.  However, since not all of us are on the receiving end of someone else’s unwanted advances, I am writing this post for those of you who would like to protect yourselves from being accused of sexual harassment.  So for you out there who tend to be misconstrued and misinterpreted, here are a few tips and reminders to help protect you against sexual harassment charges:

Know company policies.
Don’t sleep or daydream through the HR orientation.  Most offices and workplaces have policies covering sexual harassment.  If a talk or presentation is being given, pay attention.  Find out what constitutes sexual harassment in the workplace — your workplace.  Claiming ignorance later won’t excuse you.

Don’t use your position as an excuse.
Many complaints regarding sexual harassment involve a superior and a subordinate.  If you happen to be the boss, don’t use your power or authority to encourage sexual innuendos.  Even if you are a natural-born dirty mouth, please refrain from going too far, particularly with people who seem to be sensitive or prudish.  In this day and age, there are still people who get so offended by the slightest thing that they probably don’t watch movies on HBO just so they wouldn’t hear the words ‘sh*t’, ‘d*mn’ and even ‘b*tch’.

Don’t ask for sexual favors in exchange for something.
If you are in a position of authority and have a low level of self-respect, it will be very easy for you to use whatever power it is you think you have to abuse someone else.  One of the ways you can do this is to ask someone for sexual favors.  If they fight back, expect to be on the receiving end of a sexual harassment complaint.

Don’t single out.
So maybe there’s this one person at the office who’s your favorite for some reason.  If you must truly tell a dirty joke or story, don’t single out a single person – unless of course, you’re good friends and know each other very well. 

Consider your environment.
There are some offices or workplaces that are so filled with sexual innuendos that it’s almost impossible to go through one workday without hearing a single green joke.  This is usually okay, as long as people know and respect other people’s boundaries. 

If you work in an office where people don’t care about green jokes and sexual insinuations too much, blurting out a dirty punchline once in a while shouldn’t be much of an issue.  But should you overdo?  My advice is no because being the source of the dirty jokes may not always be flattering.  You wouldn’t want to be cast as a stereotype at the office, would you? 

Keep the jokes impersonal.
If you absolutely must tell a dirty or sexy joke or story, you might want to use the third person.  Don’t single out someone, say offensive or derogatory stuff about them, their friends or family.  Don’t compliment a curvy colleague by saying, ‘You must have gotten those from your mama, right?’  It may not mean anything to you but the recipient of your… er, compliment might find it offensive.  Besides, it’s lame and cheap.

Keep your eyes (and hands) off the wrong spots.
In the workplace, certain areas of the body are just simply off limits.  This is especially true if you are not very good friends with the other person.  Avoid staring at someone’s cleavage, butt, crotch or legs.  When they’re talking, look them in the eye and don’t fix your eyeballs on their mouths — even if they remind you of Angelina Jolie’s or Brad Pitt’s lips.

It would also help if you could keep your hands to yourself.  Being touchy-feeling by nature does not excuse you from allowing your hands to land on someone else’s hand, arm, back, chest, shoulder, thighs or legs.  ‘But I’m just naturally malambing!’ you protest?  That may not always work in your favor in case someone does complain.  In a professional environment such as the workplace, it’s absolutely okay to keep your distance.

Have a dirty joke?  Keep it in your dirty mind.
There will always be a place in the world for dirty jokes.  Why?  They appeal to our most basic needs to laugh, be silly and take a peek at something the rest of cultured society holds sacred.  So if you’re the type who likes to tip the taboo basket just to spill the beans, hold it.  Not every person you meet will appreciate your jokes.  There are people who would rather keep things a little tamer. 

If they don’t react to your x-rated punchlines in a manner that you expected, don’t prod them.  Remember that if the joke is funny, people WILL get it.  If it isn’t, then it isn’t.  Leave it at that.  Don’t follow these people around asking them why they didn’t find it funny or go teasing them about what you perceive as their uptightness.  People have the right to their own opinions and you shouldn’t forget that.  Besides, if you continue to pester them, they could insult you or worse, slap you with a sexual harassment complaint.

Never spend more time than is necessary with someone you like who doesn’t reciprocate your feelings.
Admiration is one thing.  Stalking is another.  If there’s someone at the office you really like and would love to know better, it’s probably okay to let your intentions known, provided the coast is clear (he/she is single and unattached).  However, if they refuse you, don’t insist that they made a mistake by turning you down.  They have their reasons.

If you have a crush on someone and they do not reciprocate your feelings, don’t feel too bad.  It’s their loss, not yours.  If you get turned down, move on.  Plenty of other fish in the sea.  Besides, if it’s a known fact that you like someone, extra attention on your part could, in case you overdo it, be construed as some form of sexual harassment.

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Comments»

1. level guide | Intel.com - November 27, 2008

[…] How to Protect Yourself from Sexual Harassment Charges If you are in a position of authority and have a low level of self-respect, it will be very easy for you to use whatever power it is you think you have to abuse someone else. One of the ways you can do this is to ask someone for sexual … […]

2. Muoriola - July 13, 2012

I am an associate director in a private company. I have seduced and offered money to my subordinate because I chose to have an affair with him even if I know that he is happily married. Recently, his wife suspected the affair, he has left me already and I sent emails to him demanding payment of the money I gave him. Can this be used as evidence that I sexually harassed him?


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