Sexual Harassment at Work: What It Looks Like

Sexual harassment is undesirable conduct of a sexual nature. It can happen to people of any sexual orientation or gender. Thus, a person of the opposite sex, same-sex, or any gender identity can be involved. Employees can experience sexual harassment from any person they come across in the workplace, including:

  • A coworker
  • A contractor, customer, or public member
  • Supervisor, manager, or someone in authority
  • A prominent or powerful member of the company

Any conduct of behavior can count as sexual harassment regardless of intions. The impact of the conduct is what makes a difference.

Who Is Responsible?

Any individual who sexually badgers a coworker is accountable for their actions. Employers can also be held responsible, and this is called vicarious liability. They should do everything within their capacity to ensure their representatives and workers are safe from sexual harassment.

All objections to sexual harassment should be taken seriously. Company bosses should deal with any investigation in a manner that’s sensitive and fair to:

  • The individual who submitted the complaint
  • Witnesses of the event or events
  • The employee accused of sexual harassment

Types of Inappropriate Conduct

Sexual harassment is not about any specific gender. Typically when people talk about sexual harassment, they think about a male badgering a female. While this is common, there have been various cases of females harassing their male counterparts. Same-sex harassment is also illegal.

Some forms of sexual harassment in the workplace are obvious. These may include unwanted kissing, inappropriate touching, sexually suggestive gestures, and rape, just to mention a few.

While obvious types of sexual harassment occur in the workplace, more inconspicuous types of harassment are on the rise. Sometimes normal activities can be termed as sexual harassment if they happen with regularity. They can be sufficiently serious to make a worker distracted, intimidated, or uncomfortable. Some examples include:

  • Repeated compliments of a worker’s appearance
  • Incessantly asking someone out at work
  • Commenting on someone’s attractiveness in front of colleagues
  • Talking about one’s sex life in presence of others

To qualify as an antagonistic work environment, the behavior should be hostile not exclusively to the worker, but to any sensible individual in similar conditions.

For instance, a female representative may be really annoyed that a male worker admired her hairstyle and held a door open for her. But most people wouldn’t consider that to be harassment out of context but there could be more going on.

Other Forms of Sexual Harassment

There are various forms of obscure sexual harassment. Sexist remarks and activities can elevate to harassment. A typical misinterpretation is that sexual harassment must be of a sexual nature to be unlawful. But under Title VII, hostile conduct that depends on a worker’s gender, serious or unavoidable enough to establish a harsh work environment that is illicit.

For instance, a workplace may be antagonistic if female employees are advised to dress more “feminine” or satisfy other gender generalizations. This may also include being left out of vital meetings or having their work undermined by male employees.

Sexual harassment can also come from clients or customers. Most people know that sexual harassment carried out by a coworker or manager is illegal but according to Title VII, employers also have an obligation to shield their representatives from sexual harassment from outsiders. This includes clients, customers, merchants, colleagues, and many more. Employers have a responsibility to take action to stop the activity as soon as they know there’s ongoing harassment.

If someone’s behavior makes you feel uncomfortable at work, you may feel too embarrassed to tell anyone. You don’t have to handle it by yourself. Many lawyers offer a free consultation so you can get legal advice to see if your situation is truly antagonistic. In which case, a lawyer can encourage you to come forward with a workplace sexual harassment claim.