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Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment occurs when a coworker says or does something sexual that makes you uncomfortable. It can range from upsetting comments to a demand for sexual favors. Sexual harassment is more than just rude and unprofessional. It’s also against the law.

Businessman leaning over businesswoman sitting on office desk.

Two Types of Harassment

Sexual harassment falls into two types. These are:

  • Hostile environment. This occurs when a coworker offends others with sexual comments. It also includes sexually aggressive actions. These are things like cornering a coworker or unwanted touching. In general, more than one instance is needed for this to be considered harassment.

  • Quid-pro-quo (this-for-that). This occurs when an employer or manager offers a job, promotion, or other benefit in exchange for sexual favors. One instance of quid-pro-quo harassment is enough for legal action.

Recognizing Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is sometimes an abuse of power. In other cases, it results from poor social skills. But it doesn’t matter why it occurs. It also doesn’t matter where it takes place. It is never okay, even if offsite or after hours. The types of sexual harassment to look out for are:

  • Verbal . This is spoken. It can be things like pressure to go on a date or comments about a person’s sexual orientation. Or it may be jokes based on gender, such as linking behavior with PMS or testosterone. Catcalls and whistles are also forms of verbal harassment.

  • Visual. This is seen. It may be suggestive materials displayed in the workplace. This includes calendars, posters, or software showing states of undress. Behaviors such as gestures and leering are also included.

  • Physical. This is invasion of personal space. Unwanted touch falls in this type. It also includes cornering, leaning over, or brushing against a coworker. Sexual assault and rape fall in this category.

 

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