When you go to work, you should feel comfortable and safe. No one should have to worry about sexual harassment at work. Sadly, sexual harassment in the workplace occurs far too often. In California alone, thousands of workplace sexual harassment claims are filed every year. It is important to know how to identify sexual harassment in the workplace, both to prevent it from happening and to help those who may be victims.
What is Sexual Harassment?
First of all, it is important to understand what sexual harassment is–while the definition is broad and varies depending on the state you live in, it generally includes unwelcome comments or behavior that is sexual in nature or based on a person’s gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation. Because the definition is broad, this can cover a variety of behaviors. While some acts of sexual harassment may seem obvious, others are more suble. It can be helpful to know what qualifies as sexual harassment so you can take action if you have been a victim.
Signs of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
Below are three signs of sexual harassment that you should be aware of. Some are more obvious than others. However, if you have experienced any of these forms of sexual harassment, you can take action–you have a right to feel safe at work.
You are experiencing unwelcome physical contact: Unwelcome physical touching is sexual harassment. Acts such as sexual assault or rape are absolutely against the law. Still, other forms of physical touching can also amount to sexual harassment if the behavior is unwanted. This can include acts such as kissing, pinching, grabbing, hugging, touching of face or hair, and rubbing/massaging if these actions are unwelcome.
Sexual favors are required: If a co-worker, manager, or boss requires sexual favors in exchange for work-related benefits, this is sexual harassment. For example, if a supervisor withholds a promotion or a raise, or threatens to fire an employee if he/she does not agree to a sexual favor, it is “quid pro quo” (“this for that”) sexual harassment.
You have to endure sexual comments or images: Not all sexual harassment requires touching–unwelcome sexualized comments or comments made about a person’s body, sexual orientation, or gender can be sexual harassment. Also, sending or showing sexual images to a person can be sexual harassment. Even if a person is joking about what they said, that comment can still amount to sexual harassment.
It is important to be aware of sexual harassment that may be occurring in your workplace. Remember, you have a right to work in an environment that is free from sexual harassment, and if you have been a victim, you can take action. Though it can be difficult, you should report your sexual harassment–if it the harassment does not stop, you have options and can bring a claim against your employer. For more information on what you can do if you experience sexual harassment in the workplace, take a look at this comprehensive guide by Drew Lewis, PC.