What is Sexual Harassment?
Sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that disrupts the workplace. When sexual harassment occurs, the harasser’s conduct must be unwelcomed, otherwise it may not be considered harassment. Sexual harassment has a negative effect on the workplace and on working conditions –for those who are subject to it and for those who witness it.
Signs you are Being Sexually Harassed at Work
The following behaviors are considered sexual harassment and should ring alarm bells if you see, hear, or experience them:
- Jokes/Comments of a Sexual Nature – If you don’t want to hear jokes or comments that are sexual in nature and make you uncomfortable, then you are being harassed. Examples include coworkers making disparaging remarks about women, statements that females aren’t equal or as good as men, raunchy jokes that demean and demoralize both men and women, etc.
- Coercion and Bribery – If a superior offers you a promotion or raise in exchange for sexual favors, this is a form of sexual harassment. If you feel like you will lose your job, be demoted, or ignored due to your denial – you may be coerced into going along with it. Gather evidence that actions were against your will, keep details of dates, times, and comments, and keep track of witnesses who can corroborate your account of the harassment.
- Physical Harassment – This is the most obvious type of harassment and includes actions like a coworker standing too close to you, putting their hands on your shoulders or neck, trying to give you a massage while you sit, hugging, and kissing you – all unwanted from your end. This type of harassment can get serious very quickly and lead to assault or rape, so it’s best to verbally express your dislike of these actions, and then report it to a manager if the harassment continues.
- Other Harassment – Whistling, lewd noises, leaving inappropriate notes on your desk, and giving you gifts like underwear are all forms of harassment. Additionally, the display of sexist cartoons or sexual videos viewed in a workplace environment is considered harassment.
How to Handle Harassment at Work
It is best to confront the harasser directly if you do not feel a threat to your safety. If you are afraid of the repercussions of calling out a superior or employee on a management level, speak with your HR representative, or talk to a higher level manager. Keep any evidence of the harassment to prove your accusations are valid.
Don’t let sexual harassment go on. It may lead to fear, embarrassment, depression, anxiety, poor performance, etc. If you are too afraid to confront or report the harassment, contact a sexual harassment lawyer immediately. If you need help, call us today for a free consultation with an attorney in your area.