How To Tell if You Are Being Sexually Harassed

Sexual harassment in the workplace is a concept that can fill you with confusion and uncertainty, especially if you have little or no experience in a work environment.


However, it’s important to be able to identify behavior that may be considered sexual harassment in order to take action to stop it.


The law defines sexual harassment as unwanted sexual overtures, requests to perform sexual acts, or other behavior of a sexual nature that affects your employment.


On the surface, this definition seems pretty simple and straightforward. However, in the workplace, we may interact with people from diverse backgrounds.


Each of us perceives and interprets the world based on our own experiences and values. So, we may respond to some conduct differently than others.


Different social, ethnic, and gender standards can lead to misunderstandings. What is a harmless joke to one person, may be hugely offensive to another.


Also, males and females often have different ways of perceiving behavior and at times may misunderstand the real intent of the other gender’s behavior.

What Behavior Constitutes Sexual Harassment?

Not all workplace behavior of a sexual nature is sexual harassment. We all know that it’s fun to flirt and in a workplace with lots of coworkers, there may be lots of opportunities.


Some flirting is normal and harmless and may even be healthy. But, sometimes it can be hard to differentiate between flirting and sexual harassment. Here is how you can tell the difference:


Flirting is:


  • Welcome attention
  • Goes both ways
  • Makes you feel flattered or attractive
  • Makes you feel good about yourself
  • Is not legal in the workplace


Sexual harassment, on the other hand, is:


  • Not welcome
  • One-sided
  • Makes you feel put down or undesirable
  • Makes you feel bad, dirty, or worse
  • Is a violation of your workplace policy, as well as, both state and federal human rights laws.


For workplace behavior of a sexual nature to be considered sexual harassment and thus illegal, the conduct must be either severe or pervasive.


This mostly refers to welcome behavior that happens repeatedly or is persistent. However, a single incident, like unwanted groping, may be considered harassment if it is particularly offensive or disturbing.


The conduct may also be sexual harassment if your boss or employer makes an employment decision about you based on your willingness to accept a sexual proposition. For example, if you are demoted because you wouldn’t go on a date with him.

What To Do If You Are Being Sexually Harassed

Sexual harassment is illegal and unacceptable in any work environment. Your employer should have policies and support structures in place to ensure that you are able to work in an environment that is free of sexual harassment.


If you feel that you are being sexually harassed, tell the offender to stop. Next, document the behavior and, if it continues, report it to your supervisor or employer.


Once your supervisor or employer has been notified of the behavior, it is their responsibility to perform a proper investigation and to ensure that the offending behavior stops. If this doesn’t happen in a timely fashion, and that harassment continues, contact an experienced employment law attorney to learn your rights and options under the law.

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