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Sexual harassment: A secretary's stereotype

There has been a long history of making light of sexual harassment in the workplace, particularly when it comes to secretaries and their bosses. Many people joke about the "sexy" secretary and what she must do to keep such an easy job, even though that's not really the case.

Jokes about sexual harassment may not seem harmful, but when a case really does involve a boss and his or her secretary, will everyone take it seriously? The bias is to laugh it off, but the reality is that many secretaries and others face harassment in the workplace.

Secretaries in the workplace: A long history of abuse and harassment

Since the early 20th century, women have worked in male-centric offices. In the first years following this movement toward equal gender rights, women, especially talented, educated women, faced a plethora of jokes about how they would use their bodies to move up in the workplace.

What didn't help this was the reality that many women who entered the workplace as typewriters or stenographers would end up marrying their bosses or at least within the office. This only furthered the stereotype that secretaries and those in similar positions were out for money and to date in the workplace, encouraging harassment towards them.

What can you do if you're a victim of harassment today?

If you're a victim of harassment today, then you're in a position to take control of the situation. Unlike in the past, people today do realize how serious harassment is and how it hurts workers. There are laws in place to protect you.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission helps uphold regulations for businesses and requires the fair treatment of workers in work environments. Gender discrimination is against the law, as is harassment and other forms of abuse. For those dealing with sexual harassment, the EEOC may be able to help. Even if not, federal laws do stand on your side, helping you avoid having to work in an unsafe or uneasy environment.

You can report the harassment to your superiors, human resources or state department. Your attorney can help you file complaints with the appropriate agencies as well. By doing this, you'll have a chance to give your employer time to change the workplace atmosphere but also be able to pursue a claim if you feel that nothing has been done to address your concerns about workplace sexual harassment.

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