Though it seems like great strides have been made toward more inclusive work environments, sexual harassment remains an ongoing problem. Sexual harassment can take a number of different forms. The offensive behavior may come from a coworker, a supervisor, or even a client or customer. It’s important to understand what workplace sexual harassment looks like and the steps you should take if you are being harassed at work.
Some examples of sexual harassment
Women are not the only victims of workplace sexual harassment. It cuts across all gender identity lines and sexual orientations. The offensive behavior doesn’t have to be overtly sexual. It may involve teasing or comments based on stereotypes about certain groups of people. This means a person may experience both sexual harassment and discrimination based on race, gender, or sexual orientation. Some typical examples of sexual harassment include:
- Inappropriate comments about a person’s body or appearance
- Inappropriate touching
- Unwanted requests to go out on a date
- Vulgar comments or jokes
- Displaying, sharing or sending inappropriate pictures or images
It doesn’t matter if the person who’s engaging in the offensive behavior considers their actions to be harmless. What matters is if you find the behavior offensive and wish for it to stop.
What you should do if you are the victim of harassment
If you’re experiencing sexual harassment at work, you should ask the person who is engaging in the behavior to put an end to it. You should report the harassment to your supervisor or your human resources department. Most employers should have a sexual harassment policy in place which defines the steps for handling these types of incidents.
Of course, reporting the behavior may be easier said than done, especially if the harasser is your supervisor or is in a position of greater power than you are. In these cases, reluctance is a perfectly normal response. It’s still harassment even if you don’t feel comfortable speaking up in the moment. You should discuss your concerns with a skilled legal professional. You will have more information about your options which can help you determine how you’d like to proceed.