opinion

COLUMN: Did the job description not mention sexual harassment?



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A cup of coffee sits on an office desk. Tribune News Service Buy Photos

Within the last few years, sexual harassment and assault have been brought to our attention as something that simply cannot be shrugged off — celebrities like Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey have been called out for their actions and have been taken to court.

But for those who aren’t as public as celebrities, sexual harassment and assault sometimes goes unnoticed. It can be dismissed by the harasser or the victim, and frankly, it shouldn’t be ignored especially because of numerous headlines proclaiming this same issue in Hollywood.

I recently learned how someone extremely close to me experiences more sexual harassment at work than I had initially known, and it disgusts me that successful women are still seen as these objects that harassers can prey upon. I’m not one to get up on a soapbox and shout to the heavens that all men are evil, but some of the ones I’ve heard about sound pretty awful. 

I always knew this person had experienced sexual harassment by one individual. I have witnessed her reaction to this certain harasser firsthand and he basically comes off like Boo Radley throughout most of "To Kill a Mockingbird" creepy. But it wasn’t until this past winter break that she nonchalantly opened up about how she’s harassed at work by several different individuals.

According to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which essentially details how discrimination is unlawful, sexual harassment in the workplace violates the title if and when there are 15 or more employees in an establishment. Some state laws, however, like the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, prohibit all sexual harassment in employment. In other words, some states make workplace harassment illegal. 

Indiana's Civil Rights Law states it prohibits workplace harassment, these laws are outdated. According to an article by IndyStar, “citizens of Indiana are even barred from seeking publicity about an administrative hearing involving racism or sexism.”

It’s 2019. Why do women have to fight as hard as before not to be ridiculed or harassed? Why do we have to fight to be considered an equal to someone the same species as us and that’s just as capable of doing everything we can?

Why can’t our state and federal governments get with the times and give everyone an equal and fair chance to seek justice and get these gross, lonely men to quit emailing women about their appearances and commenting on what they like seeing women wear?

It is about time women shouldn’t have to ignore these harassers and include their vile comments as just another part of the job. If we keep this up, our society won’t be moving forward, and we’ll be stuck with this outdated ideology that women stay home and have a hot plate of supper ready for her husband on the kitchen table. 

While there are some women out there who might love this idea, a lot of women I know are more excited to build their career and make a name for themselves, hopefully not through being the victim of harassment. So treat your coworkers with respect, because we are a lot stronger than we may appear and  — shockingly enough — don’t like being harassed or offended, even if it is just a joke.

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