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)

Decorative Image

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.

 

Socializing at Work

 

Decorative Image By: Jer Jurma

Humans are social (to a varying degree) by nature and thus social interactions are an important element of the work experience. There is a great opportunity to foster a socially rewarding experience at work while advancing the professional goals of any given industry.  Most professions value teamwork which relies on strong personal/professional relationships. The following are considerations for how to bring your best social self into the work place:

WHEN COLLABORATING:

  • Make a conscious effort to actively listen to your coworkers and make sure your contributions to conversation are productive.
  • Ask questions that illuminate a situation or idea while encouraging others’ creativity.
  • Know the difference between being rigorous, being skeptical, and being cynical.
  • Rigorous examination of an idea can be energizing and thought provoking.
  • Skepticism can lead to discovery and a deeper understanding of the topic at hand.
  • Cynicism can consume all the oxygen in the room and kill ideas and dialog.
  • Strive to do more than identify problems; strive to solve them.
  • Contribute time and effort to group projects, and don’t under estimate the productivity a positive attitude brings to a team.

WHEN SOCIALIZING IN THE OFFICE:

  • Be open to understanding what experience and strengths your co-workers bring to the table.
  • Assist others to be their best selves.
  • Be authentic about who you are while being respectful of your privacy and the privacy of those around you.

WHEN SOCIALIZING WITH CO-WORKERS OUTSIDE THE OFFICE:

  • Attend company sponsored social gatherings to make connections with your colleagues, as showing personal interest in knowing your team will help you engage with them professionally.
  • Keep your blood alcohol levels low and remember that everyone has a dangerous combination of the following:
    • a camera
    • a social media account
    • questionable judgement, especially when liquored up.

WHEN SOCIALIZING ONLINE:

  • Your digital persona is your professional persona, so don’t create a brand for yourself that is repugnant to your employer.
  • Privacy settings NEVER create true privacy.
  • Once something is public, it remains public.
  • Even on instant messaging, don’t forget the power of the “Screen Shot”.
  • Be smart about your interactions both on and off line…your job may depend upon it.

Meet Hannah Schulze, 2nd runner up for this semester’s “Share Your Co-op Contest”

Hannah Schulze is a current Wentworth student majoring in Biomedical Engineering and minoring in Writing. Here’s what Hannah shared with us about her Science Writing internship at Brigham and Women’s Hospital:

Where was your co-op? What was it like to work there?

The Brigham and Women’s Hospital Office of Strategic Communication oversees internal communications and media relations for more than 18,000 employees and medical and research staff. I worked closely with the Senior Science Communication Specialist to bring cutting edge research forward, help principal investigators reach a variety of audiences and accurately communicate science to the public. The team covers a lot of ground, so I had the chance to jump in and help with a variety of projects across the department. The team made it easy for me to find my place in the BWH community.

While on co-op, what project(s) were you a part of or working on, that inspired you?

I had many opportunities to interview and photograph incredible investigators in the field of medicine and craft pieces to help amplify their research. This photo (featured below) represents one of many lab visits—a conversation between Jeff Karp, a leading researcher in bioengineering, and Janine Benyus, co-founder of the Biomimicry Institute. Now, I’m back in classes and starting as a Volunteer Content Creator for the non-profit associated with the Biomimicry Institute, AskNature. AskNature is a free online community focused on helping designers and entrepreneurs find inspiration from biology and nature. I learned so much from the team at BWH, and now I’m part of another meaningful project that I might not have otherwise known about. Co-op is about finding those opportunities.

Based on your co-op experience, what industry/position do you see yourself in the future?

Across my time at Wentworth, I’ve had three co-ops. My experience solidified the importance of an organization’s mission and culture over having a specific job function. I bring a wide range of experiences to the table, and I want to be somewhere that uses all of them—technical and creative alike.

What is a major takeaway from your co-op experience?

In terms of advice for others—use this as an opportunity to network and accumulate a bank of advice. The great thing about advice? You don’t have to take it if you don’t want to, so just ask for it. Being in the industry space, the people you encounter will have a better idea of what’s out there than you do. Use them as resources.

Make sure you’re listening and absorbing. Even if it’s not something you’re working on or that’s affecting you at that moment, you might be involved soon. This is a great exercise in adaptability. Be one step ahead.

Probably my biggest piece of advice: don’t be afraid to act like you’re on the team—feel free to speak up in meetings, ask questions, get to know the team and be part of the community. That’s the part of the co-op experience where you actually figure out what you’re looking for in the future.

What made you enter the contest and why did you choose the photo entered?

My co-op experiences have been a little bit outside the status quo, and I want my peers to know that they can make that happen for themselves. Go with what you’re interested in, and trust your gut. The photo I entered represents a time where I connected with some wonderful and very interesting people who inspired me. I was on a team that provided great opportunities to learn, and I grabbed them.

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

Meet Maria Rodriguez, runner up for this semester’s “Share your Co-op Contest”

Maria Rodriguez is a current Wentworth student majoring in Biomedical Engineering and minoring in Biology. Here’s what Maria shared with us about her co-op experience at CELLINK in Cambridge:

My co-op with CELLINK was incredible! As an applications engineer, I learned so much about 3D bioprinting and tissue engineering. I collaborated with top researchers in the field to make sure our technology met their needs, and I learned so much from their research. One of my favorite parts was introducing scientists to the world of bioprinting, for which I helped organize the event pictured. The CEO of the company featured this picture on his LinkedIn account!

Where was your co-op? What was it like to work there?

I was an application engineer at CELLINK. CELLINK is a startup with a very vibrant and fast-paced atmosphere. My co-op position was very challenging, but at the same time, very fun. It involved supporting customers and finding new applications for our innovative technology (about which I knew very little about until I started working there) while collaborating with the team to improve the technology, and networking with scientists to introduce them to our products.  I spent many days out of the office in research labs and conferences, where I got to listen to the end-users feedback and meet many important people in the bioprinting and tissue engineering fields.  My supervisors had a contagious positive vibe. Also, they were very open to my ideas and always treated me like a valuable employee.

While on co-op, what project(s) were you a part of or working on, that inspired you?

My co-op experience inspired me to choose my Senior Design project. I pitched an idea to CELLINK based on a need of their current customers, and now my project is being sponsored by them! I still cannot reveal what it will be, but it is very promising since one of the applications is to help prove pharmaceutical drugs safety more efficiently, so they can get to the market faster after they have been discovered.

Based on your co-op experience, what industry/position do you see yourself in the future?

Based on this co-op experience, which introduced me to the field of 3D bioprinting, I will probably continue my studies after I graduate in order to specialize more in this field. Then, I’d love to work for a company like CELLINK, which is heavily based on research but still a part of industry and not academia.

What is a major takeaway from your co-op experience?

A major takeaway is that motivation and persistence can be key when it comes to getting a job you really want. I did not have much experience related to the technology, but my interviewers saw my passion and were excited to have me on their team.

What made you enter the contest and why did you choose the photo entered?

I wanted to share my experience. I chose this photo because it was featured by the company’s CEO.

Thank you for sharing your experience with us, Maria! Be on the lookout for our next “Share Your Co-op 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.

LGBTQ+ Friendly Employers and How to Find Them

There are some helpful lists out there of LGBTQ+ Friendly Employers. But what do you do if you are interested in working at a relatively new or small company that may not show up on those lists? Luckily there are actions you can take to assess just how friendly this company is to LGBTQ+ employees and they are all part of the regular job search: Do your research and ask questions.

When researching your targeted companies, be sure to look at how a company portrays themselves. Is there evidence that they value diversity and inclusion in the following?

  • Mission statement/overall profile
  • Top management: any minorities and women? Check out Hoovers the Resources for Co-ops section of our website.
  • Charities they support
  • Website and social media (for proof that the company values diversity in its employees, their customers and vendor partners)

Once you’ve researched the what the company says about itself, check outside sources. What is their recent history (are they walking the walk?) and how have they been rated?

The Company’s Employee Policies and Training can tell you a lot. Check for clues in their:

  •  Job postings, website or promotional materials – do they include statements about being an Equal Opportunity Employer?
  • Zero tolerance policies for discrimination, harassment and retaliation in the employee handbook?
  • Ask about training opportunities for employees and managers on diversity issues.

Do they have any LGBTQ+ Friendly Benefits?

  • Healthcare coverage for same sex spouses and domestic partners
  • Paid family leave (maternity, paternity, adoption) allowed for domestic partners as well as children of a domestic partners, regardless of biological or adoptive status
  • COBRA-equivalent benefits for domestic partners
  • Bereavement leave for death of a partner or their immediate family.

How about Employee Resource Groups?

Some companies have affinity or resources groups for LGBTQ+ employees. These groups provide opportunities to network and discuss challenges at work and strategies to overcome them. For the company, these groups help lower turnover and increase retention. Organizations may also have a diversity and inclusion office, diversity council or working group focused on employee diversity that includes LGBTQ diversity as part of its mission.

During the recruiting process however, emphasize qualifications

Focus on what makes you a well-qualified candidate for the position: skills, experience, education and abilities. An individual should never have to divulge their gender identity or sexual orientation. If a person decides to come out it should be on their own terms. Unfortunately, protections are not universal, and disclosure can open one up to discrimination. The best approach is to ask general questions re: benefits and diversity initiatives and compare that with your research.

Lastly, if you do get an offer from a company, but find that you are not comfortable working for them after all, it is okay to politely turn down an offer. And all that research was not for nothing, you know more about who you want to work for and who you don’t.

For more information, check our LGBTQ+ resources page for students: https://wit.edu/sites/default/files/coopscareers/LGBTQ%20Student%20Resources.pdf

Research strategies and questions provided by Fast Company: Six Steps for Finding LGBT-Friendly Companies

The benefits of volunteering and extracurricular activities

By: Chawney Weis

“It’s not about what you know, it’s about WHO you know.” But how do you get to know the right people? And how do you convince them that you’re the right person for the job?

You could possibly meet a connection in your Uber-pool, a coffee shop on the T or at a family/friend gathering; but volunteer work is one of the quickest ways to meet people and prove your knowledge and work ethic. Whether you choose to volunteer through an unpaid summer internship (in high school or college) or you opt to volunteer your time a couple nights or evenings each month, you will have the opportunity to build relationships with people who can potentially help you out, or at least provide you a good reference, during your co-op and/or job search. Similarly, extracurricular activities including sports, clubs, networking groups, volunteer activities, travel, etc., allow you to network and meet people while demonstrating your strengths, skill set, and how you work with others on a team and in different environments.

While both volunteer work and extracurricular activities allow you to make connections and prove your abilities, you are also building your resume in doing so. Choosing to spend your free-time doing something purposeful implies that you have interests in something beyond your school work; you like to seek challenges and learn about a variety of fields and lines of work. Employers appreciate seeing that an applicant is involved in their community and well-rounded in the activities they choose to participate in. Employers regularly request to speak specifically with students in different clubs and organizations. They want to see leadership positions and skills on your resumes as well as campus and community involvement. The projects you work on and the interactions you have will help you develop transferable skills that you will use in the classroom and in any job/work setting.

So, when you attend the Involvement Fair on the front lawn on September 7, 2017, consider what you can learn and how being involved (both on and off campus) can help you land your next co-op or job after graduation. If you are spending your summer off at home, consider volunteering part-time or finding other activities you can be involved in. Remember that your CO-OP + CAREER Advisor can assist in pulling transferable skills from any of these experiences to boost your resume and present your qualifications in your cover letters.