Harassment in the Workplace

By: Lauren Creamer

“The change I want to see is a start-up environment where everyone, regardless of gender and background, feels welcome and safe; where sexual harassment or discrimination will not impede great talent from producing great impact.” – Christine Tsai (2017 Silicon Valley Business Journal article)

“Be an upstander, not a bystander. If you see harassment happening, speak up. Being harassed is terrible; having bystanders pretend they don’t notice is infinitely worse.” – Celeste Ng (2017 Teen Vogue article)

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What is harassment and why should you care?

Workplace harassment has existed for as long as the workplace – but it has recently garnered a swarm of media attention (rightfully so). I’m writing today to share some background about what constitutes harassment, how employees (co-op students included) are protected under the law, what support Wentworth can offer you should you experience or witness harassment in the workplace.

Harassment occurs when someone is treated differently, or some engages in offensive behavior based on their membership of a protected class. I.e. making a joke about race, or an inappropriate comment about how someone is dressed based on their gender. Harassment differs from discrimination in that discrimination involves making decisions (hiring, firing, promotion, assignments) based on one’s belonging to a protected class.

Harassment can happen anywhere – and you could be the target or the perpetrator. If don’t know what harassment looks like, how would you know? This post will hopefully illuminate the issues and give you the tools necessary to prevent and address harassment while on the job.

 

You keep using the term “protected class” … what does that mean?

Protected classes are the groups protected from the employment discrimination by law. These groups include men and women on the basis of sex; any group which shares a common race, religion, color, or national origin; people over 40; and people with physical or mental handicaps. Every U.S. citizen is a member of some protected class, and is entitled to the benefits of EEO law. However, the EEO laws were passed to correct a history of unfavorable treatment of women and minority group members.

Massachusetts has widened the scope of protected class to include employers are prohibited from discriminating against prospective employees based on ancestry, gender identity, criminal record, retaliation, sexual harassment, sexual orientation, active military personnel, and genetics.

 

What is non-retaliation and how are you protected?

Before we define the types of harassment, you need to know that you are protected from it in multiple ways.

You are protected from retaliation (a.k.a. “getting even”). It is illegal to punish or take action against a person who has brought forward a concern of harassment or discrimination. Examples of retaliation include taking away responsibilities, transferring to new location or shifts, not hiring/promoting.

You are also protected by Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination in educational programs and activities, including sexual harassment, sexual assault, stalking, relationship violence/intimate partner violence, and other gender-based and sexual misconduct. Co-op is considered an educational experience, and so you are protected by Title IX.

And, as an employee (which you will be considered when you are on co-op) Title VII protects you from discrimination against any individual with respect to compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

Finally, The Americans with Disabilities Act (more commonly known as the ADA) protects individuals with disabilities in job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment.

Basically – these laws protect you from discrimination and harassment in the workplace and at school on the basis of any of those protected classes listed at the beginning of this presentation.

 

Two Types of Harassment

“Quid Pro Quo” is the most commonly recognized form of sexual harassment, more simply stated as “this for that”. For example, your supervisor says to you “meet me for drinks later…..you are looking for a regular job here after graduation, aren’t you?” thus implying that you need to get a drink with them because that is the only way you could advance at that company. (You may see this in movies quite a bit… re: Legally Blonde).

The second type of recognized harassment is the “Hostile Work Environment” – unwelcome conduct based on protected characteristics (gender, race, national origin, gender identity, etc.) that interferes with an individual’s ability to perform their job. Persistent jokes or comments about women’s inability to be an engineer is an example of this type of harassment.

It is also important to note that harassment MUST BE PERVASIVE. If it happens once, it’s still a problem that needs to be addressed, but it is not defined as a pattern of harassment. Pervasive – repetitive, pattern, constant.

 

Where does harassment happen?

In the office (or at a work off-site), online (email, social media, texts), during social events or after work hours. Are you interacting with people from work? Yes? It’s still considered workplace harassment, no matter where you are. Even if the experience is unpaid (ex: a volunteer on-site or an unpaid intern) – you/they are still legally considered an employee (at least, this is what our HR department would argue).

ANYONE can perpetrate harassment. Supervisors, co-op workers, contractors, CEOs, visitors, other co-op students or interns.

 

What can you do if you experience or witness harassment?

  • When in doubt – call your CO-OP + CAREER Advisor! We can help you formulate a plan.
  • Speak directly to your manager/supervisor to share the concern.
  • What if it involves your supervisor?
    • Reach out to Human Resources, the division head of your organization, or your boss’s boss.
  • Center for Wellness is a confidential resource – you can receive support from one of the counselors on staff to help you work through the experience.
  • Speak directly to the person whose conduct was inappropriate/offensive. You have the power to address that person directly! (And again, your CO-OP + CAREER Advisor can help you craft that response).
  • Review your organization’s policies for complains/concerns. There may be a clearly defined process for addressing harassment documented on the company’s external or internal website.
  • Engage Wentworth’s Title IX Coordinator, Linda Shinomoto. She is the resident expert on Title XI and gender-based harassment.

When you work with us we will ask you how you want to address the issue, if at all. Your CO-OP + CAREER Advisor will help you reach your ideal resolution. There is no statute of limitations on harassment. Two weeks, two months, two years – you can still report it.

 

Harassment can happen anywhere.

Harassment is unfortunately not uncommon. It can happen to any gender, any ethnicity. You will likely experience, observe, and possibly even perpetrate it at some point during your career. But now you know how people who experience harassment are protected and supported, both on a legal level and at Wentworth. You have support and you are not alone.

 

You are not the cause.

If you do experience harassment, it is so important for you to know that you are not the case of someone else’s inappropriate behavior. Nothing you did caused it, and you don’t deserve to be treated this way by anyone.

 

ASPIRE @ Wentworth

By: Robbin Beauchamp, Director

Do you know that almost 2% of college students have Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?  You may have ASD or know someone who does.  Autism is a neurological disorder.  “There are two hallmark characteristics of a person with autism: communication and social challenges, and an abnormal focus on a specific topic or interest (Gobbo, & Shmulsky, 2012).”[1]  For some people with ASD, they may take time to speak as they gather their thoughts.  They may talk too little or too much or repeat themselves often.  Socially, they don’t often read body language or understand social cues.  Some people with ASD speak their truth without considering the effects of what they say has on others.  They sometimes lack the empathy to consider their thoughts, actions or words. This can make it difficult for them to accept points of view that differ from their own.

Now, imagine a Wentworth student with ASD as they try to obtain a co-op.  Interviewing is difficult and can evoke anxiety in most people.  For a person with ASD, who has the social and communication challenges discussed above, the interview can be extremely difficult for them as well as the employer.  Enter the ASPIRE@Wentworth program.

In fall 2016, Wentworth’s CO-OPS+CAREERS entered a partnership with the Massachusetts General Hospital’s Aspire Program.  The Aspire program has been helping people with ASD for over 25 years and offers services such as camps, small groups for children and teens, adult programs and an internship program for those who have neurodiversity.

ASPIRE@Wentworth is a hybrid of their internship program, adjusted to meet the Wentworth Co-op Program.  Any student who believes they will struggle to obtain or perhaps keep a co-op due to anxiety, stress, social challenges or communication issues is welcome to request participation in the program.  Our students do not need to have a diagnosis to participate.  Once our student has completed the application, they are matched with a Job Coach from ASPIRE, who is a mental health professional employed by Massachusetts General Hospital.  On the application, students identify up to 10 employers where they would like to co-op.  The ASPIRE coaches the students on successfully interviewing.  Once hired by a company for a co-op, the ASPIRE Job Coach assists the student with on-boarding to ensure a smooth transition.

All ASPIRE@Wentworth students meet weekly on-campus (or virtually if co-op’ing out of Boston) for a seminar with the Job Coach to discuss their workplace successes and challenges and to learn more about behaviors expected at work.  The ASPIRE Coach also works with the students’ workplace supervisors to provide education and support.  Wentworth pays the fees for our students’ participation.  Students who want to participate can obtain an application from their CO-OP+CAREER Advisor and should submit it at least six weeks prior to the beginning of their co-op semester.

ASPIRE@ Wentworth has assisted 12 students since we began it in the fall of 2016. One participant was offered and accepted a full-time, post-graduation position.

Read what this student says about his experience:

What made you participate in ASPIRE@Wentworth?

I wanted to participate in ASPIRE@Wentworth because I felt it was a good opportunity to obtain support while in the workforce.  Due to my difficulty reading the unwritten social rules in an office environment, Aspire offered help to me deciphering the rules.  I think the co-op program at Wentworth is a contributing factor for enrollment at the college, but for some students, such as myself, obtaining that position proved difficult.  ASPIRE@Wentworth provided me with the opportunity to fully participate in the co-op program while offering me the vision to think about job opportunities after college.

How did participating in ASPIRE@Wentworth impact your co-op experience?

My participation in ASPIRE@Wentworth was mainly a positive one.  I experienced some bumps along the road because of my difficulties with reading cues.  I did, however, gain valuable experience in this area along with understanding the workplace better.

What did you think about the weekly meetings?

I thought the weekly meetings were generalized regarding workplace etiquette and at times, I felt it was difficult for me to imagine a situation to apply what I learned.  The material provided was a lot for me to take in and I needed time to process the information.  I do think however the meetings were helpful to me with transitioning from an academic environment to a professional one.   I feel better prepared for the workforce.

Would you recommend ASPIRE@Wentworth to other Wentworth students and why/why not?

I would recommend ASPIRE@Wentworth.  As a matter of fact, I’m happy to learn it is still offered.  As I stated, for me, I needed additional support entering the workforce.  I would think that students with a similar disability would benefit from the additional support as well.  Collectively as a group, I believe we are capable to perform well in the workforce.  I see it as a matter of an explanation of social expectations.

For more information on ASPIRE, go to the Massachusetts General Hospital website at: https://www.massgeneral.org/children/aspire/about/default.aspx

To learn from people who identify as having ASD, watch this video: https://youtu.be/B0Opl0HOWK8

[1] https://www.heath.gwu.edu/students-autism-college-classroom

 

Meet the Staff: Kristen Eckman, Marketing Intern

I began my marketing internship with the CO-OPS + CAREERS Department at the start of the spring semester knowing one thing; I wanted to be a part of a team. Through my time spent with the department, I can now say that team dynamics and workplace culture will most certainly be deciding factors for me when applying for and ultimately accepting a full-time job offer after graduation.

I am currently an undergraduate senior at Emmanuel College majoring in business management with a concentration in marketing and minoring in economics. And if you couldn’t already gather from my fields of study, I was unsure of what type of position I would be pursuing post-graduation. Creative marketing, specifically social media marketing, however, has been an interest of mine since high-school. I was given the opportunity through my high school’s DECA chapter to create social media marketing plans and compete against students nationwide, which ultimately sparked my love of creative marketing. I was then able to branch out into event planning through my first marketing internship at ENERGYbits. There, I oversaw coordinating a new product launch party, booking and attending multiple sports and fitness expos, and planning and marketing sponsored work-outs with the ENERGYbits team.

If I were asked to give one piece of advice to those searching for an internship or co-op, I would tell you that experience in the field you are interested in should be among your top priorities. Second to relevant work experience, you should be inspired to do what you love. I was touched by one of my marketing research professors while at Emmanuel College. She brought into the curriculum her own marketing plans and projects that she had completed for agencies over her many years in the marketing field. Her experience was something I could connect with and envision for myself. While working on marketing research projects alongside my professor, I realized my attraction to higher education. It was always in the back of my mind that I would like to teach one day, to inspire and guide students in the way that I have been throughout my academic career. It was not until my internship with the CO-OPS + CAREERS Department that I could confirm, higher education is the environment where I feel I truly belong.

This decision, I will warn you, was not an easy one. There is no straight path to your dream job and choosing a career involves strenuous self-reflection. With that, I will say that internships and co-op opportunities are essential to shaping your career path and I would not be where I am today without the academic and professional guidance I received throughout my college career. The guidance I refer to includes not only your own experiences, but informational interviews with successful alumni in your major or intended professional industry, and informational meetings with your professors and Co-ops + Career Advisors. Through my internship I have learned that you have overflowing resources here at Wentworth to help you along your career path, do not be afraid to reach out! The CO-OPS + CAREERS Department, myself included, are here to help you make the most out of your co-op experience.

As always, feel free to stop by CO-OPS + CAREERS to discuss co-op opportunities or talk professional development with your Co-op + Career Advisor. To contact us stop by 101 Wentworth Hall, email coopsandcareers@wit.edu, or call 617-989-4101.

Beware of Scams

By: Becky Smith & Kristen Eckman

Scams are not a new phenomenon, but the ways in which they are being delivered to you are always evolving, making deceitful postings more difficult to spot. Check out this email that was distributed across campus this week, thankfully it was spotted by many, including Dean Wenner:

Every semester, students bring scams to our attention – this is extremely helpful and we appreciate your diligence.

When you forward a suspicious email you received or tell us about an experience that made you think twice; you are helping us to ensure that other students are not being sucked into a possible scam.

 

 

We are here to help you spot a scam based on the following tips:

SUSPICIOUS EMAIL

  • Email is not written in native English and may include phrases we usually don’t use in business English, such as “many blessings upon you” or “God bless” (many legit employer emails are edited thoughtfully, even if you’re recruited by a non-native speaker)
  • Language is informal, more suited to social media or text, i.e., “BTW”, “2” instead of “two”
  • They email you multiple times, turning up the pressure. This is a common tactic to persuade skeptical students or stress them out so they aren’t thinking clearly. Do not respond; instead, forward suspicious messages to me for a second opinion.
  • The person who signs the email has a different name than the sender’s name
  • The message is sent from a non-corporate email, i.e., gmail or hotmail
  • The email address does not match the company’s URL on line, i.e., an email from wit.com when Wentworth’s website is wit.edu

SUSPICIOUS JOB DESCRIPTION

  • Get trained and promoted within 1-3 months
  • Jobs that mention “direct marketing”, “flexible schedule”, “work from home”, or a salary based on performance
  • Competitive incentives available if you meet targets (this implies you’ll likely be fired if you don’t meet the targets in a very short amount of time)
  • Job title implies that you will be an independent consultant (it implies that you are on your own – not much job security if you have challenges!)
  • A vague job description is also suspicious

INTERVIEW PROCESS

  • The employer does all the talking – is very energetic – seems to be selling the opportunity to you, seems to really like you, but isn’t asking any questions about your skills or trying to get to know you on a professional level

OTHER RED FLAGS

  • They extend a job offer without conducting an interview
  • The employer asks you to complete an assignment before work officially begins, i.e., sending a wire transfer, mailing a check (they want your money)
  • There is a lack of structure and/or lack of a job description
  • It is unclear who will be your supervisor

If you receive an email or participate in an interview that feels off somehow, immediately check with your Co-op + Career Advisor or stop by CO-OPS + CAREERS for advice from anyone on staff. To contact us stop by 101 Wentworth Hall, email coopsandcareers@wit.edu, or call 617-989-4101.

Meet Zeily Perez, winner of this semester’s “Share Your Co-op” contest!

Conest image submited of Zeily Perez holding olympic torch in front of "EF Education First" banner. Twitter camption included reads "Hi I'm Zeily! I work as a computer analyst at EF. EFs goal is to provide life changing education for global citizens. Working at EF I've learned how to provide the best the computer support to people all over the world."
“EF Education First” sponsored the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, giving Zeily “Z” Perez a chance to hold the Olympic Torch while on co-op.

Tell us about yourself: My name is Zeily, but everyone knows me as Z. I am a 4th-year computer networking major en route to graduate in August 2018.

Where was your co-op? And what did you do you there? My co-op was at EF Education First in Cambridge MA, and I am currently working there part-time. I started my co-op in September 2017 as a member of the Technical Support Team. But as the months went by my manager decided to have my role changed to an Associate Desk Analyst.

What does EF do, and what is it like to work there? EF is an international travel agency, and our mission is to open the world through education. Working at EF has been fun and such an enjoyable learning experience. I get to interact with users from all over the world and help them with their computer/software needs. Since this is a travel agency that aims to transform dreams into international opportunities, there are many young souls that work here.EF is all about their open space and no cubical environment; this is what makes going to work fun! From the ping pong tables to many open areas, to North Point Park is our backyard to the restaurant/bar on the first floor there is always something to do if tired sitting in your pod.

While on co-op, what project(s) were you a part of or working on, that has inspired you? There was a cool project where I worked with the San Jose, Panama office. They requested assistance for their computers that needed to be reimaged to our configurations and applications. As the time went on, my manager and I noticed that it was a bigger project than expected. Their office hasn’t been properly equipped with the new technology systems and their office was outdated with the latest configurations. This project helped me better my communication skills (emailing, phone calls, Skype calls, video conferences) and ability to be comfortable in failing and asking for help from higher-ups (most of them based in London) to reach my goal.

Based on your co-op experience, what industry/position do you see yourself in the future? I haven’t figured that out yet. All I know is that I want to help people, travel and I need to work in a fun environment. I can no longer see myself working in cubical and sit at my desk for a whole day shift. The past two years I found myself traveling more and more and I want to be able to work outside the US. Maybe Spain?

What is a major takeaway from your co-op experience?  My major takeaway is that communication is key. I mean I learned that through RA training and leadership institute, but in the real-world it’s different. Being the middle-man between the user and our system admins’ has made me realized the communication is important for every situation. Having a close connection with our staff from around the world has made me more patient considering that we are in different time zones with other offices.

What made you enter the contest and why did you choose the photo entered? To test my luck hahah! I entered the contest because I am proud to work at EF and for those who know me I’m always traveling, and EF is all about that. EF was awarded the #1 Work Place to Work in Boston.

I choose the photo because EF has been sponsoring the Olympics for over 30 years, dating back to 1988 Summer Olympics. This year EF has been named Official Education Services Sponsor to the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Games. This means that as the education services sponsor, EF created online video, classroom content for Korean teachers, students, and citizens. This year we had someone from the Boston Office to hold the Olympic Torch and represent EF. Holding that torch even just for the picture, was a symbol of all the hard work I have done both in and out of the classroom and help others reach their goals and always to believe that no dream is too big.

Anything you’d like to add? Yes! Shout out to Matt Gianelli and Lauren Tyger for always pushing me to become my better self and supporting me through my academic, personal and co-op life.

 

Thank you for sharing your experience with us, Z! Be on the lookout for our next “Share Your Co-op Photo” contest in the coming semesters.

“This American Workplace: Slang for International Students”

By: Ria Kalinowski

Let’s “Get the Ball Rolling” (i.e., Start Something)

Americans use a lot of slang. Slang is the use of phrases or terms, typically in an informal setting, that have come to stand for something else. It is most common to hear slang used in informal conversations as opposed to during more formal language such as presentations or interviews. You will almost never see slang in formal writing. If someone uses a slang phrase or term in conversation which you do not understand, you can often use the context to figure it out. In some cases, the slang phrase that is used may be loosely related to the slang meaning. The phrase, “don’t bite off more than you can chew”, means not to take on a task that is too large.

“Keep Your Eye on the Ball” (i.e., Remain Alert)

There are many American slang phrases and terms that are related to sports. If someone says to you, “don’t drop the ball”, they mean they don’t want you to make an error or miss an opportunity. This saying is derived from sports like baseball or American football where a player may be penalized for dropping the ball during the game. For example, if someone assigns you a project at work, they may say, “don’t drop the ball” and mean that they don’t want you to mess up the project.

Another sports-related slang phrase is, “behind the eight-ball”. This saying is from the game of pool and refers to someone being in a bad or difficult position. If a colleague gives a presentation at work and it doesn’t go well because they weren’t prepared or if someone misses a project deadline because they started working on the project too late, someone might say that they were, “behind the eight-ball”.

Here is a list of additional sports slang: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_sports_idioms.

It’s Not Always “A Piece of Cake” (i.e., Easy)

Not all American slang phrases or terms are related to sports. If someone tells you to “hold your horses”, it means they want you to wait or calm down. This phrase comes from a time when horses were a major form of transportation and it literally meant to pull up on a horse you were riding or driving from a wagon to make the horse stop.

A “couch potato” is someone who sits on the couch all day watching television. It can be used to refer to people who are lazy.

Here is a list of additional slang: http://www.fluentu.com/english/blog/essential-english-idioms/?lang=en

Let’s “Cut to the Chase” (i.e., Get to the Point)

So, if you are in a situation where people around you are using slang, “don’t have a cow” (i.e., be worried). Use the situational or conversational context to figure out what they are saying. Or, you could ask! Most Americans will be happy to explain what they mean.