Sexual harassment in the workplace is a form of unlawful sex discrimination. According to the law, sexual harassment is defined as any unwelcome visual, physical, verbal, or non-verbal conduct that’s sexual in nature or based on a person’s sex that is pervasive or severe and affects working conditions. If you are feeling harassed but aren’t sure if there is a legal basis for the sexual advances at work, read on.
Three of the most common scenarios follow. Understanding what they are is the first step in identifying a problem and taking action.
How to tell if it is sexual harassment
Before summarizing what constitutes sexual harassment, it’s essential to know how to tell if this is the situation. In most cases, if the actions affect a person’s working conditions or if they create a hostile work environment, sexual harassment has occurred.
Now, read about the specific sexual harassment actions here.
Written or verbal harassment
Sexual harassment can occur by someone saying something to another person or writing it (on paper, email, text, etc.). The comment can be about another person’s clothing, romantic or personal relationships, their body, or personal behavior.
Another type of verbal sexual harassment is if one employee makes sex-based jokes or sexual innuendoes about another employee. There are more obvious signs of sexual harassment, too, such as a person who requests sexual favors or dates, or who spreads rumors about another employee’s sexual or personal life.
Threatening someone for refusing or rejecting sexual advances is another sign of sexual harassment and one that is heard about most often.
Sometimes, employees don’t only talk. Instead, sexual harassment is physical.
Some examples of physical, sexual harassment include blocking or impeding another person’s movement, inappropriate touching of an individual’s clothing or body, stroking, patting, hugging, or kissing, and/or assaulting.
If assault occurs, it means one person touched someone else against their will or without receiving consent first. Not only does this often lead to a sexual harassment case, but criminal charges may also be filed.
Nonverbal signs of illegal sexual advances at work
Many people are confused about nonverbal sexual harassment; however, it is something that occurs in workplaces every day. There are several types of nonverbal sexual harassment.
One situation is if someone looks up and down a person’s body or stares at another individual. Another nonverbal situation is someone who makes derogatory facial expressions or gestures that are sexual in nature or if they follow a person around.
Sexual harassment isn’t always sexual
It’s important to remember, sexual harassment doesn’t always have to be sexually suggestive. Harassing conduct is also considered unlawful if it’s based on a person’s gender or sex.
For example, if a woman is working in a typically male-dominated position and they are signaled out for verbal abuse or harsh criticism even while job performance is equivalent to male co-workers, it could be considered sexual harassment.
Sexual advances at work: Taking action
If a person believes they have been a victim of sexual harassment, both men and women, it’s important to take action. An attorney who works with cases like these ones can help the victim understand their rights and what paths of recourse are available to them.
Understanding what sexual harassment is – and what it isn’t, can be challenging, but if any of the above issues occur, the individual should report it right away. This will help their situation if they file a lawsuit down the road.
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