What is Considered Sexual Harassment at Work?

Sexual harassment is a type of discrimination that can happen to both men and women. What differentiates it from other forms of harassment that can occur in the workplace is that the methods in which the harasser uses against their victim all have a sexual nature. More often than not, those who are affected by it don’t get the help that they need because they aren’t sure if they have the legal grounds to do anything to stop it. But the law clearly states that for sexual harassment to be considered illegal, it must be ongoing or severe. What that means is that it has to either take place over a considerable amount of time or cause a serious physical or emotional impact on a person that impedes their ability to do their job. The sexual attention also has to be unwanted. So the victim has to have clearly stated to their harasser that their actions are making them uncomfortable. This can be done either verbally or in writing. In order to better understand this concept, it helps to take a look at a few examples of sexual harassment in the workplace.

Demanding Sexual Favors

Instead of earning a promotion or job position on their own merit, a supervisor might suggest to an employee that they could have it in return for sexual favors. This is also sometimes seen when someone asks for a raise, time off to be with their family, or better work conditions. What makes it so incredulous is that the victim is often made to feel that they don’t have a choice in the matter. If they don’t go along with their harasser’s advances, then they risk losing their job.

Inappropriate Sexual Jokes

Everyone loves a good joke every once in a while. But the workplace is not an appropriate setting for telling sexual jokes that make other people uncomfortable. One of the worst ways that this type of harassment can occur is when a person is unable to leave the room or their job post while the jokes are being told. If they attempt to do so, then the harasser might make additional comments that undermine or embarrass them in front of other people.

Displaying Inappropriate Pictures

Showing nude photographs on a desk or wall or asking an employee to view pornography is another form of sexual harassment. The images or videos that are shown may be of other people or the harasser. An example of this would be a person sending nude images of themselves to one of their coworkers who was clearly not interested in having a relationship with them.

Inappropriate Touching

Inappropriate touching occurs any time that a person’s body is touched in a way that makes them uncomfortable. For example, a coworker might keep rubbing another employee’s shoulders even after they asked them to stop. Grabbing buttocks, breasts, or genitals is also off limits. And so is forcing someone to hold hands or hug and kiss when they would rather not.

Inappropriate Comments

Lewd comments that have sexual implications can easily make an employee uncomfortable, especially when they persist for months on end. The comments might be about the victim themselves or other people that he or she works with at the company.

Physical Intimidation

Physical intimidation occurs when a person implies to another person that physical harm could be done to them if they don’t do what the harasser wants them to do. This can be seen by someone blocking a door with their body or raising their fists in a threatening manner. For it to be part of sexual harassment, the physical intimidation usually has to be associated with demands for sexual favors or other forms of inappropriate touching and comments.

Sexual Assault

The most severe type of sexual harassment in the workplace occurs when a person is sexually assaulted by one of their supervisors or coworkers. Afterwards, they are often threatened that if they attempt to report the assault, then they will lose their job. The attacker might also imply that no one will believe them because they were “asking for it” by the way that they dressed or acted.

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