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Sexual harassment in small businesses is all too common

On Behalf of | Apr 24, 2024 | Sexual Harassment At Work

female worker and male small business owner working on a shipment

Sexual harassment is an issue that affects individuals in all types of workplaces, including small businesses. While corporations may have more resources and established protocols for addressing such behavior, small businesses often lack the same level of infrastructure to handle complaints effectively. As a result, victims of sexual harassment at small businesses may feel even more vulnerable and isolated in their experiences.

According to a report by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), nearly one-third of all sexual harassment complaints come from employees at small businesses. Unfortunately, the lack of resources and formal HR departments in small businesses can make it more difficult for victims to come forward and seek help or protection.

Workplace size complicates the issue

One of the main challenges that victims of sexual harassment at small businesses face is fear of retaliation. In a smaller or tight-knit environment, victims may worry about how their complaints will be received by coworkers or even the business owners themselves. This fear can prevent individuals from speaking up and seeking support, leading to prolonged suffering and perpetuation of the harassment.

Another challenge for victims is the lack of transparent reporting procedures and support systems. Small businesses likely do not have a designated HR department or trained professionals to handle sexual harassment complaints. This situation can leave victims unsure of where to turn for help and guidance, especially if the perpetrator is a manager or owner.

Common examples of workplace harassment

While sexual harassment can take many forms, here are some examples employees might encounter:

  • Unwanted jokes or comments about someone’s body or appearance
  • Inappropriate touching, such as patting, pinching, or brushing against someone
  • Sharing or displaying sexually explicit images or messages
  • Pressure for dates or sexual favors in exchange for promotions or job security

Reporting the behavior

So, what can harassed workers do, especially if it’s from a boss or owner? Here are some options:

  • Document everything: Record the incidents using dates, times, and witnesses.
  • Confide in someone you trust: Talk to a coworker, friend, or family member about what’s happening.
  • Look into local laws: Find out what protections you have under state and local laws.
  • Seek outside help: Contact organizations like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for guidance.
  • Speak with a sexual harassment attorney: They can weigh the specific details involved and help determine the best course of action.

Empowerment through action

Dealing with sexual harassment is never easy, but knowledge is power. By understanding what harassment looks like and knowing your options for reporting it, employees can take steps to protect themselves and others in the workplace. If the employer does not adequately respond to an employee’s initial complaints, an attorney can help ensure that there is justice for the victims.