Many people assume that sexual harassment perpetrators are male and their victims are female, but that’s not always the case. Sexual harassment doesn’t discriminate. Sexual harassment victims can be male or female—and the perpetrators can be, too.

What is Sexual Harassment?

There are two main types of sexual harassment: quid pro quo and hostile work environment. Quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs when an employee is offered some type of benefit in exchange for engaging in sexual activity with someone. For example, if a supervisor tells you that she will promote you if you have sex with her, this is quid pro quo sexual harassment.

The second type of harassment, hostile work environment, refers to situations where the work environment becomes intimidating, offensive, or uncomfortable for employees due to unwelcome sexual conduct. This unwelcome sexual conduct does not necessarily have to be physical. Telling offensive jokes, making inappropriate gestures, or even drawing sexually explicit pictures can be considered sexual harassment even if no physical contact is made.

It’s important to note that the inappropriate behavior only has to occur once in order to be considered quid pro quo sexual harassment. But, the unwelcome sexual conduct must occur repeatedly for it to create a hostile work environment that interferes with employees’ ability to do their work. Therefore, if someone makes one sexually explicit remark to you, this is not enough to prove that you are working in a hostile work environment. However, if someone approaches you with an offer that involves a sexual act, this isolated incident is enough to qualify as quid pro quo harassment.

Employers have a legal obligation to keep sexual harassment out of the workplace. If either quid pro quo or hostile work environment harassment occurs, the employer may be held liable if they knew about the behavior, but did nothing to stop it. This is true even if the harasser is not an employee of the company.

Why Men Fail to Report Sexual Harassment

It’s been reported that women are far more likely than men to be sexually harassed at work. In fact, one report even estimated that 80% of sexual harassment cases involve female victims. But, are these numbers accurate? It’s hard to say.

Some men feel as if reporting sexual harassment will make them appear less masculine and strong. They may think that their co-workers will make fun of them for turning down someone’s sexual advances, or that they should be able to handle this type of issue without someone else’s help. As a result, they never tell anyone about their experiences. Instead, they suffer in silence and either allow the harassment to continue or make an effort to avoid the harasser at all costs. Even if men do find the courage to report sexual harassment, they may not be taken seriously by their employer.

Other man may not even be aware that they are being sexually harassed. It’s possible that some male victims may still be under the impression that sexual harassment victims can only be female. If they make this assumption, then they would have no reason to think that they could ever be victims of sexual harassment.

Most of the men that move forward with contacting the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) are filing a claim against a male harasser. According to the EEOC, it is very rare for a man to file a claim against a female harasser. This may be because heterosexual men do not feel as if they will be mocked or emasculated for reporting the sexual advances of another man, whereas they may fear these consequences for reporting a female harasser.

Justice for Male Sexual Harassment Victims

Men have the same rights in the workplace as women, so they should always take action to report sexual harassment. The first step is notifying your employer of the harassment by contacting a representative in the human resources department or telling your supervisor. You should give your employer as much information as possible and ask for a copy of the report. Keep this in a safe place so you have proof that you notified your employer of the harassment.

Your employer is obligated to launch an investigation into your allegations and take action against the aggressor to ensure that you are no longer harassed. But, it’s possible that your employer will fail to fulfill this legal obligation. Many employers don’t take sexual harassment claims seriously or don’t want to be forced to take action against a valued employee that is acting inappropriately. But, these are not valid excuses. If this happens, contact an employment law attorney right away.

An employment law attorney can help with the process of filing a claim with California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). The DFEH will review the details of your claim and contact you if they need additional information before deciding whether to take your case or not. If they move forward with your case, they will ask your employer to respond to your allegations in writing. Then, the DFEH may ask you to attend mediation with your employer so you can attempt to resolve the issue together. Cases that cannot be resolved in mediation may end up in court. The DFEH can either choose to file a lawsuit on your behalf or allow you to hire an attorney so you can pursue legal action against your employer on your own.

Have you been sexually harassed by a co-worker, supervisor, or customer in the workplace? If so, seek legal representation from the employment law attorneys at Shegerian & Associates right away. We are committed to helping both male and female clients seek justice against their harassers. Contact us today by calling 1-800-GOT-FIRED.