When imagining a “typical” workplace sexual harassment scenario, people tend to think of blatant, obvious examples, such as inappropriate touching or making inappropriate comments about physical appearance.
However, workplace sexual harassment is not always so obvious and overt.
Let’s look at some examples of not-so-obvious workplace sexual harassment:
- Jokes or comments: One inappropriate joke or comment is usually not enough to be considered actionable sexual harassment. However, when the jokes or comments are unwanted, sexual in nature, and ongoing, the victim needs to be aware of his or her options.
- Standing or sitting too close: An employee should not feel physically uncomfortable at work. A manager or co-worker constantly standing or sitting too close could be considered a sexual harasser.
- Asking personal questions: Intimate questions about romantic relationships or sexual experiences makes for an extremely uncomfortable situation at work and may be considered sexual harassment.
- Conduct that happens to someone else: If someone else is affected by the conduct – even if the conduct is not directed at that individual – it can be considered sexual harassment.
- Conduct that the aggressor does to himself or herself: Touching or grabbing one’s own private body parts in front of co-workers is highly inappropriate and may create a hostile work environment.
- Inappropriate pictures or videos: Sending inappropriate sexual pictures or videos through the office could be considered sexual harassment, even if the pictures or videos are not sent to the victims directly.
Remember: To be considered sexual harassment, the conduct must be unwelcome.
Sexual harassment in the workplace is never okay. Victims have legal rights and options. Additionally, if a victim suffers retaliation for reporting sexual harassment at work, he or she should speak to an attorney.