Visual Harassment: Different Types At The Workplace

Harassment of any kind is regarded as offensive behavior that needs to be called off immediately. It not only hampers the work performance of any individual but also affects mental health. Harassment is a serious issue that cannot be overlooked. It refers to the unsolicited conduct of behavior directed towards people based on their gender, nationality, color, or any impairment. 

Unlawful behavior towards people from different gender identities or sexual orientations is considered offensive. According to the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination Act of 1967, ADEA, and the Act of Americans with Disabilities of 1990, ADA, any sort of harassment is considered bigotry. Unfortunately, this illegal action is carried out in every part of the world, leaving the individual with an enduring horror of the occurrence.

The harassment activity is considered illegal and offensive when it persists for a longer period. Also, it is considered unlawful when an employee has to leave work due to this. This activity can take place anywhere, be it workspace, college, school, and by anyone, be it any visitor, relative, colleague, or supervisor. Furthermore, this is not a gender-specific issue; it affects all genders. And hence, the victim should call for action whenever they encounter such incidents. 

Types of Harassment 

There are many laws and policies by the US government to prevent such activities and make people feel safe. Any behavioral activity amongst the following is considered offensive and unsolicited. The behavioral practices are as follows:

  • Intimidating or belittling jokes and comments
  • Name-calling/ catcalling
  • Attempt to physical assault/rape 
  • Mocking the person/ intimidating and interfering into work
  • Asking for sexual favors
  • Sexual gestures with face/ hands
  • Unwelcoming gifts, texts, calls, or any material related to sexual nature
  • Whistling, inappropriate touching
  • Checking out someone, comments on appearance/ clothing
  • Asking personal questions related to life and sexual life

All these points are considered unsolicited and unwelcoming, as they make the individual uncomfortable and disturbed. It affects their normal working patterns and thinking processes and hence their performances at the workplace. 

As a responsible citizen, you should concede to the person that you do not like certain behavior and ask them to stop it. If the problem persists, you need to call for someone, like the disciplinary department in the organization, to look into the matter. You can also request that an officer from the government’s S/OCR policy investigate the situation thoroughly. 

This is known as the protected activity. It means doing the necessary to make the person stop such behavior, listed in Personnel bulletin 18-01. Since there are many forms of harassment, it can be sexual, visual, verbal, non-verbal, and much more. They are classified based on the activities carried out by the harasser. 

1. Sexual harassment

The meaning of sexual harassment lies in the fact that the harasser asks for sexual favors consistently from the victim. Verbal and non-verbal harassments are the subsets of sexual harassment. The behavior is considered offensive when the conduct is likely to affect the individual’s work performance and state of mind. 

Colleagues often tend to intimidate the other person not to let them grow and succeed. However, you should not be compliant with such behavior and immediately call it off. Such incidents hamper the work environment and make it impossible to work for the suffering person. According to the Preventing Sexual Harassment SDC IP 73 (1992) Manual, sexual harassment comprises all the points discussed. Incidences like physical assault, name-calling, intimidating, touching inappropriately and making sexual gestures counts under this.

2. Visual harassment:

It refers to the conduct of assault at the sight of the individual. It is a condition in which the harasser tends to do the unlawful without the victim’s consent and affect their performance at work. It refers to unhealthy sexual conduct with the person without their consent. A Few times, if there is some flirting among the employees, it is fine only if it is acceptable from both sides. If the behavior is making someone uncomfortable, it shall not be continued. Also, the conduct of such flirtatious behavior should be avoided in any case to maintain a healthy working environment. 

Behavioral practices that are considered as a type of visual harassment are as follows:

  • Revealing private parts.
  • Sharing unwelcoming messages and pictures or videos sexual in nature to anyone. Like sharing pornographic images/videos to anyone without informing.
  • Unsolicited gestures to anyone, like lip biting.
  • Checking out somebody offensively and hence making them feel uncomfortable.
  • Placing pictures, odious messages, or content from any website in front of that person.
  • Sharing of offensive pictures of the person without consent to everyone.

Harassment of any kind is prohibited in New York under the New York City Human Rights Law, the New York State Human Rights Law, and Title VII. 

The City Law

It is referred to as the most extensive law for anti-discrimination in the country and applies to many conditions. It is regarded as the law in which sexual harassment is counted. If sexual harassment has resulted in unhealthy work environments, it is regarded as employment discrimination, and the existence of such behavior is prohibited at the workplace. In general, a hostile and aggressive workplace is filled with continual insults, ridicules, or punitive activities, and the law acts on investigating if the environment is hostile as per the complaint or not.

The State Law

Under the human rights law in New York, it is unlawful for any employer to hire, fire, or discriminate against an employee based on the conditions of the employee in terms of gender, conditions, or any special privileges. However, state law is similar to Federal law in many aspects. 

Moreover, a single incident may not be counted as offensive and abusive. If the problem persists over time, it is considered a matter of harassment. Harassment is defined as any behavior that persistently interferes with an individual’s job and performance quotient. And hence, it is the moment when action has to be taken to stop the nonsense. 

For instance, if a person watches pornography videos/pictures aloof and walks in, it shall not be considered offensive. But if the person is doing so in front of everyone, it is offensive conduct and shall be stopped.

The Federal Law

Visual harassment is compliant to offensive behavior and often leads to the dysfunction of an individual at work. Under Title VII, it applies to employers with at least 15 employees. It also tends to cease the damage caused to the employer. Hence, continuing with the city law is the safest option when complaining against any employer for misbehaving or harassing you. Moreover, you should consult a professional to avoid falling into trouble.


Since harassment is not to be overseen, it needs to be investigated meticulously so that the employees feel safe in any space. However, any sort of harassment in a workspace is referred to as employment discrimination. And a protected activity shall be undertaken to stop such behavior. The New York City Law for Human Rights seems to be the most appropriate law to be considered when complaining. Because it does not require any money to be paid to the employer if a complaint is to be filed against them, you must consult a professional before making a decision.

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