Sexual harassment is an ongoing issue in the workplace. Many women — and men — experience sexual harassment or misconduct on a regular basis.
What is it and why does it happen?
In this lesson plan, we are dealing with a very difficult subject — sexual harassment.
This could be a great topic to discuss if you are teaching young adult or people in the workplace. It is guaranteed to raise a lot of questions and much discussion.
You can download the full and complete lesson plan right now. Just click the link down below.
What is sexual harassment?
Does sexual harassment happen in your country?
What can we do about this issue?
Read Jasmine’s account that she experienced below:
The first time it happened I kind of just ignored it.
But then he kept on saying it and it just got worse.
I spoke to my boyfriend about it and he said I should talk to the HR department. But I also thought that it might make trouble for me and I would lose my job.
Apparently, a lot of women think that. So they tolerate it.
The first time he said anything inappropriate was in a meeting. There were all these important people there — a lot of suits — and I was helping my manager set things up for his presentation.
Then he just said: This is Jasmine — she helps us out in the office, along with some other things.
I was the only woman in the room and all these men looked at me and some laughed. I just finished what I had to do in the conference room and got out of there.
I just thought maybe I had misheard it. Maybe he was praising me — saying I was a valued member of staff. But that evening I told my boyfriend and he said it was a really bad comment to make.
After that, my manager just kept on saying things. I didn’t know how to respond because the comments were never really overtly sexual. He didn’t use specific language.
But he did insinuate things. He was using innuendo.
I spoke to this older woman who has worked in the company for many years. She just said that was the way it was in the company. It has always been a very male-dominated place and she said that women were often the butt of their jokes.
I made a decision to just ignore him and just get on with my job. I really liked what I was doing and I liked the company. It was just him.
Then he made a very personal comment.
It was in the middle of the summer and it was very hot. So I was wearing a short skirt and a sleeveless top. Nothing really revealing and I still looked professional but he said something about my legs and something else about other parts of my body.
We were all alone in his office and I was feeling really vulnerable. I told him right there and then that he needs to stop saying certain things to me.
He just looked back at me with a brazen expression and said: Like what? I don’t know what you mean.
It was like he was challenging me. I left his office, went straight to the toilet and cried. I felt so humiliated.
I called my boyfriend and asked him what I should do. He said I should go straight to the HR and complain.
And so that is what I did.
Now we are all waiting for the trial. I am still working in the company but you could cut the atmosphere with a knife.
Some of the other women have told me that they support what I have done.
But there are many others — men and women — who give me the cold shoulder now.
I will just be glad when this is all over.
Reading Comprehension Questions
When Jasmine says ‘it’ in the first sentence, what is she referring to?
Who did she consult with first? What advice did this person give to her?
According to Jasmine, what do a lot of women think?
Where did the first incident take place? What did he say?
How did the other men in the room react? How did Jasmine react?
What did Jasmine think her manager meant by his words? What did her boyfriend think?
Did the manager continue saying things to Jasmine? What did she think they meant then?
Who did Jasmine consult with at work? What did this person say?
What did Jasmine decide to do after that? Why did she make this decision?
What kind of comment did the manager make to Jasmine that provoked her the most? What did he say?
How did Jasmine react this time?
How did the manager react?
What did Jasmine do after that?
Who did she call? What did this person say?
What is Jasmine waiting for now?
How have others reacted to Jasmine? How do they treat her?
the butt of the joke
cut the atmosphere with a knife
give me the cold shoulder
Write down all the words and phrases in your vocabulary notebook. Look in your dictionary and find the meaning of each word. Write the definition next to each word.
Then make up your own sentences using each word or phrase.
Notebook—a small book with pages of blank paper that students use to make notes when
“I left my notebook at home so I was unable to make any notes in my English class.”
In your own words, what happened to Jasmine?
Do you think she was right to be upset? Or should she have just ignored it?
In your opinion: What is sexual harassment?
Does sexual harassment exist in your country? Can you provide any examples?
Jasmine’s manager says this in the story: She helps us out in the office, along with some other things.
What do you think he meant by this? Why did the other men laugh?
Are there strict rules in the workplace in your country to prevent sexual harassment?
What if someone breaks one of these rules? What will happen to them?
Who is more prone to sexual harassment – men or women? Why is this so?
Apart from the workplace, where else can sexual harassment take place?
What can be done to fight sexual harassment?
Are compliments allowed in the workplace between colleagues do you think? If so, what kind of compliments? And between whom?
Is flirting regarded as sexual harassment? Why/why not?
Can sexual harassment happen between two people of the same gender? Why/why not?
Have you ever been the victim of sexual harassment? Can you talk about it?
Make the Rules!
You work for the HR department of a big multinational company.
Recently there have been a small number of reports of sexual harassment in the office. And so you must create a list of rules to make sure people understand how to behave in the workplace.
Get into small groups of around four students and make your list.
You should try to have around EIGHT rules on your list.
Below are two examples to get you started:
- It is forbidden for anyone in the office to make heavy compliments to another member of staff – male or female.
- All staff members are advised to avoid eye-contact for more than a few seconds.
When your group is ready, make a class presentation of all your rules.
In the class, compare and discuss all your rules from all the groups.
Try to create a master list of the best rules.
This is a role play activity.
There are two characters in this role play exercise.
You are Jasmine in the story at the beginning of the lesson.
Your manager has said things to you of a sexual nature and you have had enough. You would like this to stop immediately.
So you have approached the HR department and you are now telling the HR manager the whole story.
2. HR Manager
You are the HR manager at Jasmine’s company.
Jasmine is a valued member of staff and has come to you to with a very serious allegation. She has accused her manager of sexual harassment.
As it is such a serious issue, you have to find out all the information about this. Plus you have to deal with it with great sensitivity.
You are both in a private meeting. Just two people to discuss what Jasmine has been through with her manager.
You both need to be very sensitive while at the same time very honest.
At the end of the meeting, the HR manager should tell Jasmine what the next steps will be.
In your pairs, prepare your role play.
This is a very serious issue – no laughing matter!
When you are ready, show your role play to the class.
Debate: What is Sexual Harassment anyway?
This is a debate activity.
The whole class should divide into two teams of equal number. You should also choose a student to act as chairperson – this person should ensure there is order during the debate and to make sure everyone has an opportunity to speak.
The two debate teams are:
You believe that sexual harassment is a serious issue and that companies and other workplaces need to treat it as such.
There needs to be strict guidelines on sexual harassment and if anyone breaks the rules they should be fired immediately – no matter their age, race or gender.
Sexual harassment is a crime and it needs to stop now!
You believe sexual harassment is an issue – but you also think that people are losing their sense of humour. Sometimes people make little jokes with each other and this should not be considered sexual harassment.
Also, people should be allowed to give compliments to each other without fear of being fired.
When did we stop being human?
In your teams, take some time to prepare what you want to say in the debate. Try to anticipate what the other team will say so you can offer a counter-argument.
You are going to write an essay.
The title is – Sexual Harassment in the Office
In your essay, you are going to highlight three examples of sexual harassment and how they take place in the office.
At the end of your essay, you should offer some solutions or answers on how to resolve these issues of sexual harassment in the office.
When you have written your essay, you can read it out in the class – or hand it to your teacher for review.
What did you think of this lesson plan? Was it useful in your class? Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
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