Everyone understands that touching someone inappropriately or lavishing them with unwanted attention can be considered sexual harassment in the workplace. Sexual harassment, on the other hand, isn’t limited to the most visible acts such as inappropriate touching or making provocative remarks. Any sort of unsolicited sexual behavior that is insulting, embarrassing, or menacing is considered sexual harassment. What’s more, it’s against the law.
What Does it Look like When a Person is Subjected to Sexual Harassment?
Sexual harassment can take place in a variety of settings. The harasser can be of any gender and have any type of relationship with the victim, such as being a boss, supervisor, coworker, instructor, peer, or colleague.
The following are some examples of sexual harassment:
- Making sexual favors a condition of work or progress, either expressly or tacitly
- Sexual assault that is physical
- Sexual favors are requested
- Sexual harassment in the form of jokes about sexual actions or sexual orientation is prohibited
- Unwanted physical contact or touching
- Sexual advances that aren’t welcome
- Feeling compelled to engage in sexual activity with someone
- Self-examination or sexual activities on one’s own body
- Sexually graphic photos, emails, or text messages that you don’t want
Apart from these, there are some less obvious forms of sexual harassment at work that you might not have considered. Apart from actual or attempted rape or sexual assault, there are many more examples of sexual harassment. Here are some of them:
- Addressing an adult with words like “baby,” or “honey”
- Telling lewd jokes or discussing sexual experience stories – even if not meant at you but done in your presence to make you uncomfortable
- Making sexual innuendos or comments
- Changing the subject of work to sexual topics
- Asking about sexual thoughts, tastes, or history
- Telling sexual jokes or stories
- Discussing one’s sex life in public
- Making a remark about another person’s appearance in front of an employee
- Inquiring about a person’s social or sexual life on an intimate level
- Kissing, roaring, and smacking their lips while looking at you
- Criticizing and making offensive comments about someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity, or inquiring about their sexual orientation
- Making sexual remarks about someone’s dress, physique, or appearance
- Continually asking someone out who isn’t interested
- Spreading rumors about a person’s personal sex life or telling lies about it
- Looking sexually at someone in the eyes
- They are staring at your body or looking up and down
- Whistling or staring in a sexually provocative or unpleasant manner
- Blocking a person’s movement physically; in other words, standing in their way on purpose
- Unwanted sexual or romantic gifts
- Sending unsolicited suggestive or indecent emails, letters, or other communications, or sending sexually explicit photographs around the office, or exhibiting sexually explicit posters, products, or screensavers
- Using sexually provocative images
- Sharing sexually improper photos or videos with coworkers, such as pornography or obscene GIFs
- Inappropriate sexual photos or posters are displayed in the workplace
- Making sexually inappropriate facial expressions, hands, body movements, or gestures
- Using facial expressions such as winking, kissing, or licking lips
- Giving a massage on the neck and shoulders
- Getting close to or touching a person’s clothing, hair, or body
- Touching, kissing, rubbing, or caressing a person’s body and/or clothing in an inappropriate and provocative manner. This also includes pinching, patting, or purposefully brushing up against another person
- Sexually touching or rubbing oneself around another person
- Getting too near to another person or brushing up against them
Unwanted pressure for sexual favors and requesting dates or requests for sex despite being turned down or sexual favors on a regular basis are also examples of sexual harassment.
This is only a brief list of workplace sexual harassment actions; there are many more. The main point is that if someone at work engages in behavior that makes you uncomfortable, whether verbal, physical or otherwise, you should intervene as quickly as possible.
Sexual harassment can still be considered funny, ‘banter,’ or part of a company’s culture if:
- The behavior is sexual in nature
- It is unwanted
- It degrades someone’s dignity or puts them in a hostile situation
The majority of sexual harassment is directed at a single person; however, this is not always the case. There might be a culture of sexual harassment in the workplace that isn’t directed at a single person, such as sharing pornographic photos. In this case, someone might still file a sexual harassment complaint.
What’s the Difference Between Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault?
Sexual harassment is a broad word that encompasses a wide range of unwanted sexual attention, both verbal and physical. Sexual assault is defined as sexual contact or behavior, which is typically physical, that occurs without the victim’s consent.
Sexual harassment often breaches civil laws (you have the right to work or learn without being harassed), but it is not always a criminal offense. In contrast, sexual assault usually relates to criminal acts.
Sexual misconduct is a non-legal word that refers to various activities that may or may not include harassment. For example, even if the connection is consensual, some firms restrict sexual relationships between coworkers or between an employee and their employer.
Some Instances of Sexual Harassment
Let’s discuss some instances where people faced sexual harassment.
- Example 1
Here’s an example of how sexual harassment at work might manifest itself in the form of sexual remarks or jokes.
Aleena works with a road construction crew as a traffic controller. Aleena feels uncomfortable and distressed when her coworkers make improper sexual gestures, statements, and jokes during breaks.
Aleena’s coworkers’ behavior could be called sexual harassment in this case since it is unwelcome and insulting, is repetitive, and has a negative impact on her.
- Example 2
Another example is provided below, where implied or actual threats of being passed over for job chances or promotion if you refuse your boss’s overtures are shown.
Mark has been with his employer for three years as an analyst. His supervisor Ruby made unwanted moves towards Mark at a recent work function, which he rebuffed. The following week, he was summoned to an after-hours meeting with Ruby and informed that if he didn’t accept her behavior, he would never advance in the firm.
Here, Ruby’s actions would be considered sexual harassment since she has intimated that Mark will be passed over for career prospects because he denied her unwanted advances.
- Example 3
Here’s an example of what sexual harassment at work may look like in the form of inappropriate touching, patting, or pinching by your boss, coworker, or customer.
Sunny is employed at a nearby café. Sunny is frequently greeted by Rayn, a regular client, who tries to hug her, which makes her uncomfortable. Rayn’s behavior recently deteriorated when he improperly squeezed Sunny as she walked past the table where he was seated.
Rayn’s actions would be considered sexual harassment in this case since he touched Sunny in an unwanted and uninvited manner.
If you want to gain more awareness about sexual harassment and the examples of sexual harassment, Impactly can help you achieve it. Impactly offers state-compliant sexual harassment prevention training and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion training.