Gay and lesbian people have had to hide their personal characteristics for much of recorded history. They face punishment from religious and governmental authorities alike as well as social ostracization and fewer work and educational opportunities.
Only in recent years have laws begun to change to better protect gay and lesbian individuals against harassment and institutional discrimination. Unfortunately, while there are laws in place protecting people from sexual harassment by their co-workers, it still happens all the time.
Gay and lesbian employees have an elevated risk for sexual harassment when compared with their heterosexual colleagues. Why is harassment so prevalent for them?
Harassment isn’t just about attraction
Workplace sexual harassment doesn’t always relate to one person being attracted to another, and it doesn’t always occur between people of opposite sexes. Sometimes, it just involves one employee abusing or mocking another because of their gender, sexual orientation or sexual history. That employee could be the same sex or the opposite sex of the employee they target. Even if they have no sexual interest in their co-worker, their abuse constitutes sexual harassment.
One employee could engage in sexual harassment by creating a hostile work environment through constant jokes at a co-worker’s expense. Jokes, sexual references, unpleasant nicknames and aggressive, negative statements couched in religious language could all affect the mental health and work safety of a homosexual employee.
Gay and lesbian employees facing this conduct from their supervisors or teammates should keep careful records of what they experience so that they can ask their employer to intervene or take legal action against the company. Knowing your rights and what constitutes sexual harassment and help you put a stop to it at your workplace.